A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety revealed that as maximum speed limits in the U.S. have increased so have the amount of avoidable fatalities.
The statistic doesn’t sound all too surprising on the surface. After all, if cars are going faster, they collide with more energy. However, while most people understand that concept, it doesn’t stop them from going a little bit faster than the posted speed limits. Some people think it makes sense to make those limits a bit more reflective of the speeds people are really going. For example, on the 401 highway in Ontario, the limit is 100km/h but most of the time people are actually going 113 - 126 km/h. If the limit was raised to 120 km/h you might think it shouldn’t make a big impact on fatalities, but instead simply avoid the amount of tickets people get for going the same speed as the cars around them.
However, the IIHS study found that for every speed limit increase of 8 km/h on highways, there was an 8% increase in fatalities. This is most likely because people still speed even if the limit is higher. A higher limit just means an even higher speed when speeding.
In British Columbia, limits were increased on 1,300 km of highways to 120 km/h. What impact this has had on fatalities is still being researched.
For many, lower speed limits may seem like a government cash grab, but the evidence is pretty clear that lower limits really does lead to less people dying on the road. The danger right now is in the different speeds people tend to go. If some people are going 20 km/h over the limit and others are keeping it below, the unpredictability will cause more collisions.
People have become more comfortable with high speeds thanks to safe and comfortable vehicles and the result is that you may feel just as safe at 125 km/h as you do at 80. However, no one is alone on the road and just because you feel safe going fast, doesn’t mean everyone else will be. This study proves once again that drivers need to slow down if we want to make roads safer.