The NCSL Blog


By Steven Lambert

Speeding makes it more likely you will be involved in a crash and increases the severity of crash-related injuries according to a new safety study released in July by the National Tranportation Safety Board examining the causes and trends in speeding-related car crashes and countermeasures to prevent these crashes. 

Car passing speed limit signSpeed-related crashes killed 9,557 people in 2015 and are estimated to cost society $40 billion per year. However, the NTSB study finds that researchers in the past have actually underestimated how often speed plays a role in these fatal crashes. The study linked speeding to 112,580 highway crash fatalities between 2005 and 2014.

Speed is a factor in so many crashes in large part because of the physicality of speeding.

It takes longer to stop a speeding vehicle, speed hinders a driver’s ability to detect dangerous situations and an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report found when speed is increased by 50 percent, the energy released in a crash more than doubles. When a car is speeding, safety measures outside the car, such as guardrails, barriers and other such devices, become less effective.

By offering solutions to the speeding crisis such as encouraging carmakers to install features to alert drivers when they’re going over the speed limit and mounting a national speeding awareness campaign akin to “Click It or Ticket,” the study offers an important analysis of the true costs of speeding.

In terms of solutions, the report focuses on five speeding countermeasures:

  • Speed limits.
  • Data-driven approaches for speed enforcement.
  • Automated speed enforcement, i.e. the use of speed cameras.
  • Intelligent speed adaption.
  • National leadership, e.g. public awareness and education, funding and cross-agency collaboration.

NTSB issued the findings as safety recommendations to the US Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Governors Highway Safety Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The study also explores the disconnect between drivers’ perceptions of speeding—which they acknowledge is a safety issue—and their personal speeding habits.  

A number of states have raised their speed limits in recent years. Notably, Arkansas enacted legislation this year (HB 2057) that would authorize speeds of up to 75 mph on some highways in the state, but the Department of Transportation has not yet raised the speed limits, pending a completion of studies regarding the safety of increasing speeds on those highways.

On the flip side, some states, including Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington have recently enacted laws enabling municipalities to lower speed limits in residential and business settings to increase safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, school children and the general traveling public.

Considering 32 states deliberated over 100 bills related to speed limits in 2016, you can rest assured there will continue to be debate regarding speed and speed limits in statehouses.

Check out NCSL’s resources related to state speed laws.

Steven Lambert is an intern in NCSL’s Transportation Program.

Email Steve.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.