Higher speed limits claim additional lives each year

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced in May 2016 that the speed limit on long stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other highways was being increased to 70 mph. While long-distance truck drivers and harried commuters may have welcomed the news, road safety advocates likely responded to the announcement with less enthusiasm. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the speed limit increases introduced over the last two decades are responsible for many additional deaths on the nation’s roads every year.

While speed limits are set at the state rather than the federal level, Congress was able to set a national limit of 55 mph in 1973 by linking its adoption to crucial highway funding. The restriction was put into place to save fuel and make the United States less dependent on foreign oil, but its most immediate benefit was a dramatic reduction in car accident fatalities. However, the rules were relaxed in 1987, and the law was repealed completely in 1995.

Six states have set speed limits as high as 80 mph, and motorists in Texas can reach 85 mph on some stretches of road without having to worry about getting pulled over. Road safety groups say that laws like these place expediency and convenience ahead of safety, and they point to IIHS research linking every 5 mph that speed limits are increased with a 4 percent surge in road deaths.

Personal injury attorneys who have represented car accident victims will likely support efforts to reduce speed limits. However, they could also urge police to enforce the speed limits currently in effect. Motorists who ignore posted speed limits are often involved in catastrophic accidents, and attorneys may seek to hold them responsible for this negligent behavior by pursuing civil remedies against them on behalf of accident victims.

Source: The Pennsylvania Turnpike, “Pennsylvania Turnpike and PennDOT Announce 70 mph Speed Limit Expansion”, Carl DeFebo, May 2, 2016