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6/22/2005
New Study: Higher Speed Limits Don't Decrease Safety
Research shows no significant increase in fatalities following the federal speed limit repeal.

Review of Policy Research
A new study concludes that states that increased speed limits following the repeal of the federal limit did not see any significant increase in fatalities per mile driven -- contrary to many predictions. The results published in the July issue of Review of Policy Research come as several states including Texas, Iowa and Indiana are raising their maximum allowable speeds. The top legal speed in Texas will rise as high as 80 miles per hour following legislation signed into law last week.

An 80 MPH limit would have been unthinkable between 1974 and 1987 when the "double nickel" limit of 55 MPH was the law of the land. Congress eased this mandate in 1987 by allowing states to post 65 MPH daytime limits on rural interstates. When the federal limit was finally repealed in 1995, the Department of Transportation predicted an additional 6,400 deaths every year as a result.

Researcher Robert O. Yowell demonstrates that this increase never happened, and the US continued to experience a fatality rate that had declined 63 percent from 1968 to 1991, primarily as a result of safety improvements to automobiles and increased seat belt usage. By examining this fatality rate in light of the number of vehicle miles traveled, Yowell found that in each state that raised the limit there was no significant change in the fatality rate -- except Texas where it went up and Michigan and Colorado where it went down.

"The estimated effects reveal that the assertion that speed kills, and more speed kills more is mostly unfounded," Yowell concluded. "There is no widespread positive relationship between raising the speed limit and the fatality rate."

Source: The Evolution and Devolution of Speed Limit Law and the Effect on Fatality Rates (Review of Policy Research, 7/1/2005)



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