The Connection Between Speed Limits and Car Accidents

It’s no secret that speed limits are getting faster—much faster. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speed limits are designed to reflect the maximum rate of speed that drivers can legally go under ideal conditions. However, when faced with traffic, construction, poor weather, or other adverse conditions, drivers should adjust their speed accordingly. Unfortunately, many drivers view the speed limit as the minimum speed, and go at least 5 MPH over the speed limit, regardless of road conditions.

A new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study found that increases in speed limit over two decades have cost 33,000 lives in the U.S. In 2013 alone, the speed limit increases resulted in 1,900 additional deaths, essentially canceling out the number of lives saved by frontal airbags that same year.

In 1974, a National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) of 55 MPH was set to conserve fuel. However, in 1987, Congress allowed states to set speed limits at 65 MPH on interstate roads in areas with fewer than 50,000 people.

Finally, in 1995, Congress repealed the NMSL, allowing states to set their own speed limits. Since then, speed limits have been on the rise.

While IIHS’s study believes that higher speed limits cause more accidents, others believe that higher speed limits simply cause more severe accidents. In fact, accidents that occur at high speeds are more often fatal. So while there is a direct connection between freeway deaths and freeway speed limits, some believe that raised speed limits do not inflate the total number of collisions.

In that school of thought, most follow studies that show drivers rarely overshoot their speed comfort zones, even if they are legally permitted. They also believe that IIHS’s study fails to take into account that the number of miles driven has gone up as the economy continues to rebound, and gas prices are low. Additionally, according to census statistics, older drivers are staying on the road longer than they once were, putting more drivers on the road.

While this all may be true, IIHS’s study cannot be ignored. With a higher maximum speed limit, individuals are going anywhere from 5-15 MPH over the limit. And the reckless driving doesn’t stop there. Self-professed speeders say they often drive 15 MPH over the limit on freeways, and also admit to passing other cars, keeping up with fast traffic, and are more likely to not wear their seat belt and to use a cell phone while driving.

In June 2015, Wisconsin switched their speed limit to 70 MPH on interstate highways. In the 12 months following that change, fatalities rose 37% on the interstate, injuries increased by 11%, and the total number of accidents rose 12%, giving merit to the study done by IIHS.

Six states in the U.S. have speed limits of 80 MPH, and in Texas, drivers can drive 85 MPH on highways. So what can be done? IIHS hopes that the outcome of their study brings to light the deadly consequences of higher speeds, and hopes states will keep this in mind when considering a speed limit increase.

For all of us, this can serve as a reminder to follow the speed limit set in place, and avoid reckless driving habits in the hopes of saving lives.

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Driving Sober: The Best Way to Spread Holiday Cheer

The holiday season, specifically between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, is all about spreading holiday cheer. As the turkey is cooking, and close loved ones begin to arrive, the bottles of wine are opened, and the festive cocktails are served.

Every holiday season, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) stress the importance of driving sober. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 1,000 people will be injured or killed due to drunk driving between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, a rate two to three times higher than the rest of the year.

With Arizona’s ‘zero tolerance’ DUI laws, and the possibility of killing yourself or others on the road, follow these tips to stay safe this holiday season.

1. Be extra cautious the night before Thanksgiving.

Blackout Wednesday, which occurs the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, is one of the biggest drinking days of the years. With businesses closed the next day, and college kids home for break, the bars are packed. In fact, accidents from Blackout Wednesday to Black Friday account for more than 400 traffic deaths each year.

With the high volume of traffic on the road, it’s important to have a ride set up to come get you when the night ends before you have your first sip of alcohol. Whether you call a cab or appoint a designated driver in the group, this crucial step will certainly save lives.

2. Download the Uber and Lyft mobile apps.

With companies such as Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse for drunk driving. While there may be ‘surge pricing’ during the holiday season, the cost of taking an Uber or Lyft ride is significantly cheaper than a traditional cab, and definitely cheaper than a DUI ticket. Both user-friendly apps allow you to plug in your credit card information, and request a ride from your current location. You’ll know the price of your ride before you even get in the car.

3. Stay aware.

Even if you’re sober on the road, you can’t guarantee everyone else is. Take extra precautions at stop lights, waiting a few seconds after the light turns green to enter the intersection. If you notice someone driving erratically, call 911 to report the driver. Finally, make sure you’re aware of the individuals you’re at your holiday gathering with. If you notice your cousin or aunt grabbing his/her keys after a few drinks, make sure you step in for everyone’s safety.

The holidays should be a time of community, celebration, and laughter. Don’t let an unavoidable accident ruin a treasured time. Stay safe and look out for those around you to make your holiday season as merry and bright as possible!