According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, increases in speed limits over the past 20 years have resulted in over 33,000 deaths. In fact, in 2013, speed limit increases caused 1,900 additional traffic deaths, a number that cancels out the number of lives saved due to frontal airbags that year.
Individual states, including the state of Wisconsin, set their own speed limits. During the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government limited speed limits to a maximum of 55 mph through threats of withholding federal funds, out of concern over fuel availability. In 1987, Congress relaxed this restriction and allowed states to increase 65 mph on rural interstate highways; by 1995, Congress had repealed the restrictions on speed limits for states altogether. After this occurred, researchers predicted that traffic fatalities would increase, and they were correct.
Today, most states have speed limits well beyond 55 mph, and in six states, there are 80 mph. In the state of Texas, drivers can legally drive as fast as 85 mph. As a result, at least 33,000 additional traffic deaths have occurred, at least based on the number of deaths that would have been expected had each state’s maximum speed limit remained unchanged since 1993. In reality, the study probably underestimates the number of deaths, simply because the researchers focused only maximum speed limits on rural interstate highways. This is the case due to variations in the states changing their speed limits on certain roads and not on others, or maintaining roads with one speed limit on some roads and another speed limit on some roads.
As this post illustrates, there are still far too many deaths attributable to motor vehicle accidents throughout the United States, some of which are due to increased speed limits. Boller & Vaughan are Wisconsin motor vehicle accident lawyers who dedicate their practice to protecting the interests of individuals who have been fatally injured in traffic crashes, as well as their surviving family members. Call our office today to set up your free consultation and learn what options are available to you.