AAA: Increasing posted speed limits saves a little time but increases the chance of fatal crashes

A new study by the AAA Highway Safety Foundation has found that raising posted speed limits can do little to save time and increase traffic, but can lead to more accidents, injuries and deaths.

The results of the AAA Foundation study varied across all 12 road sections studied. All were given new speed limits – six high and six low – and included different types of roads. Click here to view the full report

“Movement in public buildings to raise the speed limit is happening across the country in at least eight states this year,” said Jennifer Ryan, AAA’s director of state affairs. “But the benefits are overstated and the risks understated. Increasing the speed limit does not always produce the positive results envisaged by traffic planners.”

Key findings from the AAA study:

  • The increase in posted speed limits was linked to an increase in accidents on two of the three interstate highways.

  • The lowering of the established speed limits led to a reduction in the number of accidents in many of the cases considered. But the likelihood of speed limit violations has increased since the speed limits were lowered, indicating the need to raise public awareness of these changes.

  • Changes in travel time were small in response to both increases and decreases in speed limits.

“Our study did not provide a single answer to the question of the impact of changing speed limits,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “AAA urges transport officials to take a ‘holistic’ approach when setting or changing posted speed limits and to prioritize safety over speed and capacity.”

Speeding is a major factor in traffic accidents across the country.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 42,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2021 and 2022. This is the highest figure in 16 years.

The agency reports that speeding was responsible for almost 29% of deaths in 2021 and 27% in 2022.

Florida is one of the most dangerous states to drive in. In 2021, there were over 3,700 road traffic fatalities. However, Florida had the lowest percentage of speeding-related deaths. The state still ranks third in terms of fatalities in crashes overall.

AAA says the changes in time spent on the road were very small when it came to speeding.

The latest results are from the third phase of the AAA Foundation’s study on the safety impact of published speed limit changes.

The first study by the Foundation for Highway Engineers asked how posted speed limits are set and what factors they take into account when changing them. In the second phase, crash testing showed that a small increase in speed had a serious and potentially fatal effect on the outcome of a crash.

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