Speeding Overview

10/26/2020

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Speed-related crashes cost society an estimated $52 billion annually. It also has been a factor in over 25% of all fatal car crashes annually since 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2018, 9,579 people died in speeding-related crashes.

Speed is a factor in many crashes because of the physical forces at work. It takes longer to stop a speeding vehicle and speed hinders the driver’s ability to detect dangerous situations. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash severity is directly related to speed. If speed increases by 50%, the energy released in a crash more than doubles. This increased force is what causes severe injuries and fatalities. Passenger restraint systems such as seat belts, air bags and child safety seats can be less effective at high rates of speed. This also contributes to injuries and fatalities.

Safety measures located outside the car also can be compromised. For example, at high speeds, guardrails, barriers and other devices are less effective. These devices are designed to keep cars on the road and lessen the chances of a crash. When a vehicle is traveling at excessive speeds, however, these life-saving measures are much less effective.

In the early 1970s, Congress withheld federal funding from states that did not enact a maximum speed limit of 55 mph.  Since Congress repealed the 55 mph national maximum speed limit law in 1995, every state has responded by setting its own speed limits. Twenty-two states set maximum speed limits at 70 mph, 11 states at 75 mph on certain highway segments and eight states at 65 mph, according to IIHS. Hawaii’s maximum speed limit is 60 mph and the District of Columbia’s maximum speed limit is 55 mph. Eight states set maximum speed limits at or above 80 mph.

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