Speed limits exist so that communities are able to help regulate traffic flow and keep residents and visitors safe, but what happens when cities and towns increase their maximum speed limits? Research shows that when maximum speed limits increase, so, too, do the number of traffic fatalities taking place in those areas, raising important questions about whether it is worth raising speed limits simply to save a little time.
Per Transport Topics, even a seemingly small, 5 mph speed limit increase has the potential to cause a significant uptick in traffic deaths. In fact, one study suggests that every time communities increase their maximum speed limits by 5 mph, those communities see an 8.5% increase in traffic fatalities on major highways and thoroughfares. On their smaller, non-highway streets, communities experience about a 2.8% uptick in traffic deaths in response to raising maximum speed limits by 5 mph.
Minimal time saved
Typically, the argument behind increasing speed limits is that doing so would enable travelers to reach their destinations quicker. Research shows, however, that any time made up by increasing speed limits is negligible.
If you were traveling a 100-mile distance and the speed limit was 70 mph, as opposed to 65 mph, you would only save about 6.6 minutes on your entire trip due to the higher speed limit. Similarly, if you were traveling at 80 mph as opposed to 75 mph, you would only make up about five minutes of time on your 100-mile journey.
Speed limits often ignored
Also troubling is the fact that many motorists largely ignore speed limits, regardless of what they are. Per some estimates, more than half of all U.S. drivers travel above the posted speed limit, and this is particularly true on major highways. Raising the speed limit simply makes many of them drive even faster, potentially endangering even more lives.
Speed limits exist for a reason. While you should be able to stay safer simply by abiding by them, you have limited options when others fail to do the same.