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Study shows speed limit increases may have caused more fatalities

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Posted on July 25, 2017

Illinois residents may be interested to learn that many traffic fatalities have been linked to higher speed limits across the U.S. According to a study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the increase in speed limits over the last 20 years have resulted in an estimated 33,000 fatalities, with 1,900 of those fatalities occurring in 2013 alone.

Speed limits were traditionally kept at 55 mph starting in 1973. Congress required states to set their maximum speed limits to 55 mph in order to be eligible to receive highway funds. However, the 55 mph speed limit maximum was introduced out of concern for fuel availability and not for safety. The restriction was relaxed in 1987 when fuel availability concerns were fading. States eventually began to increase rural interstate speed limits to 65 mph. In 1995, the law, called the National Maximum Speed Limit, was completely repealed and states began to set the maximum speed limits even higher.

The IIHS study analyzed the effect of the speed limit increases from 1993 to 2013 in 41 states. The number of fatalities was compared to the number of fatalities expected if the speed limits were never increased. Although the number of additional deaths was estimated to be 33,000, it was noted that this number is likely an underestimate.

When cars travel faster, they can cause more damage. In areas where speed limits are set past 65 mph, a car accident may be more likely to result in serious or even fatal injuries. A personal injury attorney could help an injured crash victim hold the reckless driver responsible for damages and medical costs if that driver caused the accident while driving at dangerous speeds.