Faster Speed Limits Linked to Rise in U.S. Car Accidents [infographic]

30 Apr, 2016
By: Donald W Fohrman

(Article continues below infographic)

Faster Speed Limits Linked to Rise in U.S. Car Accidents


Determining Speed Limits

Maximum speed limits are set by individual states. During the 1970s and 1980s, most U.S. states capped speed limits at 55 mph to reduce the threat of financial penalties from the federal government. In 1974, President Nixon imposed a new national maximum speed limit by signing the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. Congress required that states adopt a maximum speed limit of 55 mph in order to receive their share of highway funds. At the time, Congress was concerned more about fuel availability than safety on U.S. roads and highways. They passed a measure, known as the National Maximum Speed Limit Law,  to help conserve gasoline. The law was intended to promote fuel-efficiency and curb the need for foreign oil by forcing American motorists to drive at a maximum speed limit of 55 mph. With the enforcement of the new speed limit, government officials, as well as Illinois personal injury lawyers, noticed a significant decrease in auto accidents and fatalities.

Rising Speed Limits

During the 1980s and 1990s, new sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) that were not fuel efficient, started to emerge across the country and gained popularity with many drivers. States began to question the imposed maximum 55 mph speed limit, and some states failed to comply with these speed limit laws. In 1995, the National Highway Designation Act was signed by Congress. It removed all federal speed limit controls and authorized states to reset speed limits within their own state borders. Shorty after, the National Maximum Speed Limit Law was repealed. Over the next two decades, states began to increase speed limits. By January 2013, the nation’s capital was the only state or district left with a maximum speed limit of 55 mph.

Today, speed limits across the country range from 35 to 40 mph in congested urban areas like Chicago and 70 mph on long stretches of Illinois highways. Illinois highway safety lawsare strictly enforced. In many states, U.S. drivers now drive between 75 and 85 mph on open highways. Unfortunately, with these faster speeds, auto accidents resulting in serious injuries and fatalities have also increased. Statistics show that approximately 50 percent of all collisions involve excessive speed. Illinois personal injury lawyers who understand complex Illinois laws can provide legal advice for victims of auto accidents that involve injuries and fatalities.

Accident and Injury Statistics

After the National Maximum Speed Limit Law was repealed, the federal government and the IIHS conducted an accident and injury study across 41 states. Auto accidents were analyzed and reviewed based on several important factors that included:

  • The number of national auto accidents and injuries
  • The national unemployment rate
  • The number of young drivers on the road (under age 25)
  • The consumption of alcohol in auto accidents

The fatalities were then compared to the number of fatalities based on data before the National Maximum Speed Limit Law was repealed. Based on these comparisons, the study concluded that for each five mph increase in a state’s maximum speed limit, the state saw a four percent increase in traffic fatalities across all roads. On U.S. freeways and interstates, a five mph increase was linked with an eight percent increase in fatalities.

Today, faster speed limits around the country continue to raise questions about highway safety. Recent IIHS studies showing an increase in accidents, injuries, and fatalities due to faster speed limits have prompted many safety concerns among federal and state officials. As many different highway safety studies reveal, speed is often a common factor in auto accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities.

Some law makers are concerned about increased highway safety risks linked to faster speed limits in Illinois where speed is a common negligent action on the part of a driver. Car accidents involving excessive speeds that result in injuries or fatalities can cause legal liability to be imposed on the driver. In Chicago, when one motorist harms another motorist due to negligence or recklessness, the driver at fault may be forced to compensate the victims of the crash for the totality of their damages. If an accident results in a fatality, the victim’s surviving family members may be able to seek compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering. Illinois personal injury lawyers can provide important legal information and advice to protect a victim’s personal injury rights when auto accidents occur.

About The Author

Photo of Donald W Fohrman
After completing law school Donald became an assistant Attorney General for 7 years and was assigned to the Industrial Commission Division. During that time he spent evenings establishing his own firm. Donald became a founding partner of a large workers’ compensation/personal injury firm but decided to leave the firm in 1990 to start a smaller “boutique” firm with the belief that bigger isn’t always better!
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