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It’s been a long-running debate between drivers in a race to Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, and other top tourist attractions and researchers who say that driving too fast = more accidents and deaths.
The researchers say that higher speed limits have led to a greater number of driving accidents, both minor and serious. Drivers in a hurry argue that increased speed limits help them get where they need to go with less hassle. They also say that when everyone’s is traveling faster, there’s no reason for more accidents.
Turns out, the researchers – not much of a surprise – might be right.
A new study shows that fatal traffic accidents have increased since states have put into place higher speed limits.
The study’s results, of course, don’t prove that the speed limits are the reason for the higher deaths.
- Distracted drivers chatting on cell phones could be a cause.
- The fact that more cars are on the road could be at fault.
- Even increased road construction can lead to a jump in serious accidents.
But really, the research doesn’t look good for those who say that higher speed limits are in no way linked to a greater number of auto accidents.
The Researchers Take the Upper Hand
Researchers at the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois, Chicago found that 12,545 deaths and 36,582 injuries could be linked to the higher speed limits that states started to post from 1995 through 2005.
The United States dropped its 55-mile-an-hour national speed limit in 1995, opening the door for states to post their own limits. If you’re driving across the United States now, you’ll likely run into a range of limits, depending upon whether you’re traveling a highway located in a rural area or one skirting the edge of a major city. In general, you’ll find highway speed limits ranging from 50 miles-an-hour to 75.
While compiling their numbers, the researchers discovered an increase in deaths on all types of roads of 3.2 percent since the national speed limit disappeared. Rural interstate deaths increased 9.1 percent. Urban interstate deaths jumped by 4 percent
No Change Likely
It’s unlikely, though, that states will lower their speed limits anytime soon. Commuters have grown used to the higher speeds. And though a speed limit of 70 miles-an-hour doesn’t save drivers much time when they’re stuck in a traffic jam with fellow motorists puttering along at 10 miles-an-hour, that higher limit works wonders when drivers are zipping home at non-rush-hour times.
However, just because speed limits have increased, don’t think that police officers are passing out fewer speeding tickets. Just check out the infographic attached to this story: A motorcyclist once received a ticket for traveling 140 miles-an-hour over the posted speed limit in Wabasha, Minn. This meant that the cyclist was traveling at an amazing 205 miles-an-hour.
In fact, if you have a bit of a lead foot, be careful when you’re driving in Florida, Georgia or Nevada. These states pass out the most speeding tickets every year.
Watch out if you’re motoring through the Chicago, New York City or Washington, D.C. metro areas, too: These three cities have the highest number of traffic cameras designed to snap shots of speeding motorists. Speed through one of these areas, and you might find a speeding ticket in your mailbox one afternoon.
Despite what the research says, it’s unlikely, too, that motorists won’t speed. Yes, we know that speeding increases our chances for a serious accident, but we’re also in a hurry. Far too often, our need for speed wins out over our need for common sense.