In this day and age, it is nearly impossible to find someone whose day-to-day life is not somehow impacted by cars. Whether you’re a driver, a passenger, or even a pedestrian or a cyclist, car culture has become an undeniable fact of American life. This can, of course, be a good thing—after all, cars can make life much more convenient. However, it also means that car safety should be at the forefront of everybody’s minds.
A lot of different things go into safe driving. For example, drivers should always be driving defensively and adhering to any relevant road rules and regulations. This involves never exceeding the speed limit.
When it comes to speed limits, there is still some disagreement about whether lower is necessarily better. While some safety agencies argue that high-speed limits lead to tens of thousands of traffic-related deaths, other officials argue that increasing speed limits would actually help more than harm. In this blog post, we will give you a brief overview of both arguments.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has spent over twenty years studying the relationship between speed limits and traffic deaths. One of their more recent reports concluded that increasing speed limits are directly correlated with a rise in speed-related fatalities. In their own words, “each 5 mph increase in the maximum speed limit for a state has been associated with an 8.5% increase in traffic fatalities on interstates and freeways and a 2.8% increase on other roads.”
In fact, the IIHS has even estimated that speed limit increases have led to a total of 37,000 in traffic fatalities. If all this is true, then it is no wonder that the IIHS is not the only organization that has expressed concern. Even the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has been promoting the IIHS study in order to inspire further research and discussion.
According to IIHS President David Harkey, speed-related crashes account for 10,000 fatalities every year. However, in an interview with Forbes magazine, he asserted his belief that “effective, high-visibility enforcement and traffic engineering measures” and reasonable speed limits may be able to cut this number down.
This would certainly be no small feat. After all, a total of 41 states currently have speed limits of at least 70 mph. Six states even have 80 mph speed limits. Texas even allows drivers to go as fast as 85 mph on certain roads.
IIHS Vice President Charles Farmer stresses that traffic safety, not time-saving measures, should be everyone’s top priority. “Driving 70 instead of 65 saves a driver at best 6½ minutes on a 100-mile trip,” he says. “Before raising speed limits, state lawmakers should consider whether that potential time saving is worth the additional risk to lives.”
It would be dishonest to pretend that experts unanimously agree on high-speed limits being detrimental. In fact, there is a fair amount of disagreement on the subject. One AAA affiliate, the Automobile Club of Southern California, did their own research on the matter. In their study, they looked at the correlation between higher speed limits on “crash rates (per mile drove) in California after the maximum speeds were increased in December 1995 and in April 1996.”
Rather than limiting their scope to accidents that happened on roads with higher speed limits, the authors of the study looked at the overall accidents that occurred throughout the state. The reasoning behind this was to account for the possibility that some drivers may have altered their routes in response to the higher speed limits. Their findings showed no significant change in the rate of fatal accidents. While they did find that there was an increase in less serious crashes, even this change seemed to be temporary at best.
If this sounds paradoxical, do not worry. The authors offered a few potential interpretations of their findings. For one, it is possible that the police may have spent less time pursuing speeding drivers and more time pursuing those who were genuinely acting recklessly. It is also possible that drivers were already exceeding the speed limit before the change, meaning that the actual average speed on the road did not change significantly. It is even possible, according to one of the study’s authors Steven Bloch, “that as speed limits rose, traffic flowed from more dangerous roads to larger, divided highways, which are much safer.”
Regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, one thing is clear: It would be difficult to even determine what the ideal speed limit would be. Traffic on the highway, for instance, will always be much faster than traffic on the roads. And speed limits that are too low also have the potential to be dangerous and costly.
This is one of the reasons why states were granted the ability to set their own speed limits in the year 1995. So what does this all mean for Colorado residents? Currently, Colorado’s interstate speed limit is at 75 mph. However, the state’s winding mountain roads have a speed limit of 20 mph and the open mountain highways have a speed limit of 40 mph.
In the state of Colorado, speed limits can be established both by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and by local authorities. Any road’s speed limit has the potential to change, should the relevant authorities decide that they are unreasonable for safe road conditions. However, Colorado speed limits currently cannot exceed 75 miles per hour–even on a highway.
If you or a loved one have recently been involved in an automobile accident, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. You should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our trusted nationwide personal injury attorneys. Let us fight for you and get you the compensation you rightfully deserve.