This past Fall, Texas opened a new toll road that parallels a slow road thru a rural area. Drivers would have a choice — pay a premium to drive 85 MPH legally, or drive the old road through small towns and speed traps. What made matters seemingly worse was that the deal between the state and the operator of the toll road (a private vendor) was somehow incentivized to push the speed limit as high as possible.
On the first night of public operation, the toll road suffered it’s first fatal crash (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/12/15112206-texas-highway-with-nations-fastest-speed-limit-records-first-fatal-crash?lite)
Now, a lawmaker in Nevada wants to push the maximum limit to 85 MPH in his state, too (http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/04/02/nevada-bill-would-allow-85-mph-speed-limit-on-state-highways/)
“I drive out on the Interstate 80 quite often and the maximum speed limit there is 75 [mph],” says Sen. Don Gustavson, the bill’s sponsor. “Most people do faster than that, they do 80 to 85. If we increase the speed limit to 85, these people that are already doing that speed will be doing so legally.”
Of course, there’s always a business angle to exploit when it comes to speeding:
Exotic car rental companies in Las Vegas that rent out powerful automobiles like Lamborghinis and Corvettes could be the beneficiaries of faster highways throughout the state. “For our customers, to do that 10 mph more and do the 85 mph, it’s a plus for them,” Ted Stevens, who owns Fantasy Car Rentals, told FoxNews.com. “They’re going to be in a nice car and the cars are safe enough with the airbags and suspension in the rides and the safety features in most cars.”
Is speeding really a serious problem?
Consider these facts from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
- Nearly a third of all motor vehicle fatalities, occurred in speed-related crashes
- In a high-speed crash, a passenger vehicle is subjected to forces so severe that the vehicle structure cannot withstand the force of the crash and maintain survival space in the occupant compartment. Likewise, as crash speeds get very high, restraint systems such as airbags and safety belts cannot keep the forces on occupants below severe injury levels.
- Speed has a major impact on the number of crashes and injury severity. It influences the risk of crashes and crash injuries in three basic ways:
- It increases the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver detects an emergency to the time the driver reacts.
- It increases the distance needed to stop a vehicle once the driver starts to brake.
- It increases the crash energy exponentially. For example, when impact speed increases from 40 to 60 mph (a 50 percent increase), the energy that needs to be managed increases by 125 percent.
The affects of eliminating the national speed limit of 55 MPH has been studied repeatedly. As late as 2009, the long-term effects of the 1995 repeal of the national speed limit found a 3 percent increase in road fatalities attributable to higher speed limits on all road types, with the highest increase of 9 percent on rural interstates. The authors of that study (the most recent of its type) estimated that 12,545 deaths were attributed to increases in speed limits across the U.S. between 1995 and 2005.
Speeding, whether driving too fast for conditions, or just plain high velocity on a clear, sunny day raise your risks of both a collision and of not surviving it. Telematics units and GPS systems point out cases of repeated speeding events or sheer maximum speed, and this is a disturbing trend since an accident is waiting to happen. Drivers need to slow down, plan adequate time for their trip and be prepared to take the full amount of time to drive between cities at an appropriate pace.
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