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Higher speed limits blamed for more traffic deaths

While many residents of Houma, Louisiana, probably find higher speed limits convenient and even fun, a recent study reveals that lawmakers’ being lax about speed has a drawback.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even a modest increase in a speed limit, of about 5 miles per hour, increases the traffic fatality rate by 8 percent on major highways and by about 3 percent on other roads. In 2017, this translated into over 1,934 lives lost due to higher speed limits.

Oftentimes, proponents of higher speed limits argue that raising the limit merely reflects the fact that drivers are unwilling to travel at lower speeds. The reality, though, is that drivers who get the benefit of a higher speed limit continue to exceed it. The faster a vehicle travels, the harder it is to stop or control, particularly when the driver faces an emergency situation that calls for swift action.

On the whole, in 2017, just under 10,000 people died in fatal car crashes where speed was a factor. Translating this in to percentages, this means speed played a role in about 25 percent of the traffic fatalities that happened in 2017.

In Louisiana, motorists are allowed to travel quickly, at highway speeds of around 70 miles per hour, and even higher in some locations. The statistics suggest that even in this state are given the option to drive faster, they may wish to let off the gas a bit and take it slowly and safely. After all, a driver is still legally responsible to compensate victims if his or her speed causes a serious accident, even if he or she was technically traveling under the posted speed limit.