Elevated speed limits come with elevated danger

Deaths on the road in West Virginia and across the country could be an additional risk after speed-limit increases, says a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute says that increasing speed limits over the past 20 years have taken 33,000 lives in auto crashes.

The IIHS said that in 2013 the speed limit hikes led to 1,900 additional deaths, a number that nearly cancels out the lives saved by front-side airbags. In general, maximum speed limits have been rising since 1995. While these are set by the states, in earlier decades, states faced the risk of federal financial penalties for raising the limits above 55 miles per hour.

The 1973 law limiting federal funding for highways with speed limits above 55 mph was actually inspired by fuel shortages rather than highway safety. However, in 1987 the law was relaxed, and in 1995 these restrictions were entirely repealed. Many proponents of increasing the speed limit have argued that drivers regularly exceed the limit and that the higher limits reflect highway realities.

However, the IIHS argues that rather than simply reflecting reality, the increased legal speed limits have only driven up actual highway driving speeds. Travel speeds have increased after the repeal of the law, and fatalities first increased on rural highways after the legal relaxation and then on all interstates. Some state speed limits are now as high as 80 or 85 mph.

Auto accidents that take place at high speeds pose not only a risk of fatalities, but also the danger of serious personal injuries. High-speed auto crashes are a leading cause of severe damages on the roadway.

Victims of high-speed auto crashes caused by distracted, dangerous or negligent driving at high speeds may wish to consult a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can review the situation of a car accident victim in order to seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages.

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