How Do Speed Limits Affect the Safety of Passengers in Car Accidents?

How Speed Limits Affect The Safety of Passengers in a Car Accident

Ever since the car was invented, drivers have been expected to travel at reasonable speeds that take into consideration the road, traffic around them, and weather conditions. The invention of speed limits came about to ensure that all drivers understood what speeds are safe while driving on the road. As the population has grown, along with traffic volume, and our road infrastructure has evolved, speed limits have increased. This, unfortunately, has been associated with an increase in road traffic fatalities in the United States. The speed at which a car travels affects both the chances of a car accident occurring and how severe the crash might be. When vehicle speed increases, the distance required to stop or slow a car down in case of an emergency increases. This makes it much more difficult to avoid a car accident. The impact of a high-speed motor vehicle collision is also much more severe than those that occur at lower speeds, which makes serious injuries and death much more likely. The safety of passengers on the road depends on drivers following the legal speed limits set by the state.

In 2019, 26 percent of all car accident fatalities occurred in speed-related crashes. Higher speeds make a car accident more likely because a driver may not be able to brake in time to prevent an accident. High-speed crashes are much more deadly because crash energy increases exponentially as speed increases. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gathered data from 1993 to 2017 to estimate the effects of increased speed limits on traffic fatality rates in the United States and the results were alarming. Just a five mph increase in the maximum speed limit in any given state on average was associated with an 8.5 percent increase in highway fatalities and a 2.8 percent increase in fatalities on other roads. The study found that if speed limits had not been increased over the 25-year period, an estimated 36,760 motor vehicle deaths may not have occurred. The loss of that many lives as a result of increased speed limits is terrifying. Even if higher speed limits can reduce travel time, it comes at a severe human cost  via additional lives lost. State officials must always consider this when determining if a road or highway should have a speed limit increase as it inherently puts more drivers, passengers, and even pedestrians at risk for car accident injuries.

Speed limits laws were introduced in 1901 and have traditionally been the responsibility of the states. In the 1970’s and 80’s, a national maximum speed limit was set that effectively established 55 mph as the speed limit for highways. Since its repeal in 1995, many states have trended towards much higher speed limits, including Texas. Currently, 22 states have a 70-mph maximum speed limit and 11 states have a 75-mph maximum speed limit on some portions of their highway systems. In Texas, multiple interstate sections have speed limits of 80 mph and a 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 has a speed limit of 85 mph. There are many common factors that are considered when setting a speed limit for a particular road, including land use, road design, how many pedestrians are in the area, crash potential, and the 85th percentile speed. The 85th percentile speed is the speed that 85 percent of vehicles on that road are traveling at or below while in free-flowing conditions. This method is not always the best, though, as when speed limits are increased on a road the 85th percentile speed will often increase over time.

Speeding in any area is much more than just breaking the law. The consequences are far-reaching and can greatly increase the chances for loss of life. Economically, speeding increases fuel consumption and cost for the consumer and will increase wear and tear to a motor vehicle. At higher speeds, there is a greater potential for loss of control of your vehicle. If a crash happens at a higher speed, the effectiveness of vehicle safety features will decrease and the potential for injury from the safety features increases. In higher-speed car accidents, cars are subjected to forces so severe that the vehicle itself cannot withstand the force of the crash and still maintain a survival space for passengers. Passengers may become stuck in a vehicle that has been crushed or otherwise seriously damaged. Airbags and seatbelts can become ineffective if the crash energy is high enough to destroy the vehicle’s integrity. Following the speed limit and avoiding drivers who are aggressively speeding can help avoid tragedy.

Speeding and aggressive driving is incredibly common in Texas. Enforcement of speed limits by police officers does help keep speeds down, which in turn reduces roadway accidents. Traditional enforcement by radar or other technology has been shown to decrease the frequency of crashes over time. Police are not always able to monitor speed limit violators on roads and enforcement, while effective, is not consistent. If you see a driver who is speeding, move over to the right and let them pass. Try to give speeding drivers plenty of space just in case they lose control of their vehicle. If you believe a driver is following you or harassing you on the road, including dangerously tailgating you, call the police.

How We Help Car Accident Victims

Houstonians have a lot of road to cover, but no one should fear daily life on the road because of speeding drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured in a high-speed car accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact the Houston car accident lawyers at Dax F. Garza, P.C. to learn more about how we can help you recover from your auto accident, both physically and financially.

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