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In 1995, highway speed limits increased from a nation-wide 55 mph to 65, 70 or 75 mph, depending on the state, and most Americans were thrilled. The obvious benefit of the change was people could legally get to where they wanted to go, but according to a new study, the downside has been an alarming increase in accidents and deaths.

The University of Illinois School of Public Health studied accidents from 1995 to 2005 to determine the impact on the speed increase on accidents. The study examined deaths and injuries in fatal car crashes on rural interstate highways, urban interstates and non-interstate road, and found the speed increase resulted in 2,545 deaths and an additional 36,582 injuries.

All told, the study found that deaths and injuries increased by 3.2% over the ten-year period, while rural road deaths increased by an alarming 9.1%. Lead researcher Lee S. Friedman says the easy way to solve the increases in deaths and injuries would be to drop the speed limit back to 55 mph, adding "Researchers have demonstrated that lower travel speeds and death tolls usually follow lowering of speed limits, and higher travel speeds and death tolls follow increases in speed limits."

Naturally, Friedman points out that the drop in speed would result in decreased fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gasses as well. Studies show that decreased speeds lead to higher volume capacity on freeways as well, as drivers require less distance between vehicles to safely drive.

Not all agree with Friedman's hypothesis, though. Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, says that while deaths will decrease with a lower speed limit, it'd also gum up everyone's schedule. Others point out that the bulk of the added deaths happened in areas where limits are 70 and 75 mph, and where the limits were 65, the impact was far less severe.

[Source: US News | Image Source: Ian Waldie/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't buy it one second. I've seen other studies that also show the opposite. Lowering the speed limit will only increase accidents. It isn't speed that kills, it is a differnce in speed between the two things you hit. If you lower the speed limit to 55 again, more people will be going really slow, and just as many people will still go 85. That will be more dangerous than keeping everyone closer to the same speed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't know about more education.
      You can educate someone how to drive better, but that doesn't mean that they will use when you're not around.

      Maybe something else is needed so that people will care more. (Seems to me that some people think "driving is a comfort, so why follow all the inconvenient rules, drive for yourself")
      • 5 Years Ago
      Statistics can be interpreted either way depending on the agenda.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary... That's what gets you."

      Oh, and just a thought...according to this link (http://tinyurl.com/6pfsv6), 2008 was a historic low in traffic deaths...
      • 5 Years Ago
      boo hoo - you can argue speed kills all day long and still be wrong.

      Not watching what you are doing, talking on a cell phone, eating, playing with your dog in your lap... THAT stuff kills people.

      So this study says we should go back to 55? Why not be safer and go 45? why not go nuts and say 35? hell why don't we make the whole country a school zone and just go 25?

      People need to shut their mouth - and concentrate on their driving for once in their life, then maybe some of those 12,500 deaths wouldnt have occured.
      • 5 Years Ago
      2008 was the lowest year for deaths since 1961and that is with about twice as many cars on the road.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I am not convinced. Yes, 9.1% increase in rural area. but how many more cars has been added since then?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just did some quick and dirty calculations, and you're approximately 25% more likely to be involved in a fatal accident in the US vs Germany. Germany, where (according to wikipedia, sorry) about 30% of miles driven are on the Autobahn which has not posted speed limit for most vehicles.

      US Auto Fatalities in 1998: 37,107
      US Population 2009*: 306,947,000

      Germany Auto Fatalities in 1998**: 7,792
      Germany Population 2009*: 82,060,000

      Percent chance of auto fatality in US: 0.000120%
      Percent chance of auto fatality in Germany: 0.000094%

      Percent difference: 27.7%

      **only information I could find
      • 5 Years Ago
      I disagree with this study's suggestion that higher speed limits has lead to more deaths. Government statistics suggest to me that the number of deaths and fatalities per mile driven has dropped, even after speed limits went up:

      • 5 Years Ago

      I work doing research studies. This bothers me time, and time again. Just cause 2 things happen at the same time, does not mean one causes the other.

      There are other factors, such increased amounts of cars on the road, etc.

      Research studies like this are used to push agendas, such as increased revenue from speeding tickets. I can find at least a dozen studies proving the exact opposite by a simple google search.

      Furthermore research study design can bias the outcomes. Considering this was done by college students for a class project, I can guarantee there were shortcuts made.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Didn't matter when the speed limit was 55, people were still doing 75. Most of the accidents I have seen have been people drunk, or talking on the phone. And they say teens are bad drivers, thats crap, its the senior citzens driving super large sedans or minivans on the left lane at 55 mph on the highways.
      But on the highway the cops should worry more about dangerous drivers not people speedng a little.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't buy this at all. There's been a large increase of drivers on the road too. Percentage wise we're at a lower point now than before. Not only that, saying an increase of 9.1% on rural roads means what? Do all these rural roads even have speed limits like this? Do we know how fast they were really going when these accidents happened? The drivers? Substance abuse? What?
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