When motorists in Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin and surrounding areas travel too fast to be safe on the roads, this significantly increases the risk of a collision occurring. The driver, his passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians are all in danger when drivers travel too quickly.
A personal injury lawyer knows that speed limit laws are intended to prevent motorists from traveling at an unsafe speed. However, a recent article on FiveThirtyEight discusses how most speed limits are set. The unscientific process that is generally used helps to shed light on why speed limits aren’t really all that effective at stopping deadly motor vehicle accidents in the United States.
How are Speed Limit Laws Set in the U.S.?
The process generally used to set the speed limit laws for U.S. roads was adopted based on a 1964 study. The process involves traffic engineers looking at the behaviors of motorists on a particular road. The engineers monitor how fast people are generally going. They then set the speed limit at the 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85 percent of motorists are traveling at or below).
When there is a new road being designed, the engineers will look at similar roadways in order to determine what the 85th percentile speed will be and the speed limit is thus set for the newly created road.
Speed limits set using this method are commonly called “rational speed limits.” They get this name because they are based on how fast people feel comfortable driving on a particular road. Those who believe this method of setting speed limits is a good one tend to argue that people aren’t going to obey the limits if the limits seem unreasonable. As a result, it makes sense to consider driver’s natural behavior when establishing the maximum speed that motorists can travel.
There are problems with this approach. One issue is that people tend to see the speed limit, assume that is a safe limit, and then go just a little bit faster. As a result, the speed many motorists go is actually a little bit faster than the speed most people would normally consider safe.
Higher limits also have significant consequences in terms of increasing the risk of lost life. When a pedestrian is hit by a car that is going at 23 MPH, there is a 90 percent chance that the pedestrian will recover from injuries and survive. When a pedestrian is struck by a 32 MPH vehicle, there is a 25 percent chance that death will occur.
Passengers and drivers are not immune to the risk of higher speed. Prior to 1995, there was a National Maximum Speed Limit law in place that capped how fast states could set speed limits on interstate highways. Before 1987, the maximum speed was 55 and between 1987 and the repeal of the law in 1995, the maximum speed was 65. After the law was repealed, states increased their speed limits… and increased the national death toll in traffic crashes by 3.2 percent. In just a decade, as many as 12,545 fatalities occurred because of the faster speed limits.
Drivers need to know that going too fast is very risky and should make sure they travel at a speed that is comfortable for them under the current road and weather conditions.
Missouri accident victims should contact the offices of Tolbert Beadle and Musgrave LLC at 1-800-887-4030. Serving Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin and throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri & Oklahoma.