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IIHS: higher speed limits have raised number of fatal crashes

Virginia residents may remember how the 55-mph speed limit was abolished in 1995. Since then, 41 states have increased their speed limit to at least 70 mph on the highway with seven states adopting an 80-mph speed limit on some of their highways. Six states have increased the speed limit since 2013.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has linked this increase in speed limits to a rise in car crash fatalities. After analyzing traffic fatality data from 1993 to 2017 (and controlling for factors like young drivers and seatbelt use), it concluded that 36,760 more fatalities arose than would have been expected if the speed limits did not go up. Every five-mph increase raised the number of roadway fatalities by 8.5 percent.

Car crash fatality numbers are lower than it was in 1993, but they are still high and continue to increase after a low in 2011. If the speed limits had been kept as they were in 1993, about 1,900 fatalities would have been prevented in 2017 alone. Besides speed, drunk driving and seatbelt neglect are major factors in accident rates.

Those who oppose lower speed limits say drivers lose precious time. However, the IIHS study's author calls the difference negligible. A driver taking a 100-mile trip, for example, saves only six-and-a-half minutes by driving 70 mph instead of 65 mph.

Speeding is a frequent factor in motor vehicle accidents and a common form of negligence. Those who are the victims of a speeding driver may be able to file a personal injury claim and be reimbursed for their losses, including medical expenses and pain and suffering. Such a claim will be filed against the guilty driver's auto insurance company. Victims might want a lawyer to handle settlement negotiations. If these fall through, the lawyer may take the case to court.

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