When it comes to speeding and higher speed limits, there are mixed opinions about safety. Some maintain that higher speed limits do not cause more motor vehicle accidents while others say that high speed is definitely a major risk factor in crashes.
The issue is more complicated than a simple yes-or-no argument. This post looks at some of the statistics and studies regarding speed and safety on the roads and the role that increased speed has in dangerous accidents.
What the NHTSA has to say
The first source to look at is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. It says unequivocally that speed is a risk factor that “endangers everyone on the road.” It said speeding accounted for more than one-fourth of all traffic deaths in 2016. Speeding increases a variety of risk factors on the road in addition to putting other drivers at risk for crashes.
A speeding car takes longer to stop than a car going at the posted speed limit, thus increasing the risk for collision when the speeding driver sees a road hazard. A speeding car is also harder to control and more likely to lose control than one going at the posted speed limit, especially when inclement weather is also a factor. Speeding is also a major factor in aggressive driving, which increases the risk of injury or death on the road.
What caused debate
One case that made headlines is that of Texas, where officials decided to increase the speed limit to 85 mph on one particular 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130, which increased debate about the role speed plays in motor vehicle accidents. Other studies have seemed to show an increased speed limit did not correlate in increased traffic deaths. One such study used the example of New York, where an increase to 65 mph in 1995 led to a 4 percent drop in the crash rate. However, the NHTSA information and other studies demonstrate that speeding does play a role in crashes.
The bottom line is that speeding is a factor in many accidents, and aggressive driving, which often includes speeding, also leads to crashes. Moderating speed and following posted speed limits helps to reduce safety risks behind the wheel.