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Crash data shows that lower speed limits save lives

The state of Florida has set speed limits at 70 mph on interstates, 65 mph on rural divided highways with four lanes and 60 mph on other state highways. While frantic commuters and long-distance truck drivers may approve of these measures, most road safety groups would prefer speed limits to be set lower. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied the impact that rising speed limits have had on traffic accident fatality rates over the last 20 years, and the nonprofit group concluded that road deaths increase by 4 percent for every 5 mph that these limits are increased.

Setting speed limits has generally been left up to the states, but Congress took action in 1973 after an oil embargo threatened the country's energy supply. Lawmakers established a national limit of 55 mph to conserve fuel, and they made sure that the states would comply by threatening to withdraw crucial highway funds if they refused. While energy saving may have been the goal of the law, its most notable achievement was a dramatic reduction in road deaths.

However, worries over foreign oil calmed, and Congress eased the rules in 1987 before repealing the law in 1995. Since then, speed limits have been increasing steadily across the country, and six states allow drivers to travel at 80 mph on interstates. These increases have led to an approximate 33,000 additional motor vehicle accident deaths since 1993 according to the IIHS.

Drivers who are involved in accidents are rarely eager to admit that they were speeding at the time, and police reports may not always contain the information needed to contradict their accounts. However, most modern automobiles contain black-box devices that track vehicle speeds along with other important information, and this data could be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to establish liability in car accident lawsuits.

Source: Florida Department of Transportation, "Frequently Asked Questions-Speed Limits"

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