An ongoing Department of Transportation project to raise speed limits on Minnesota roads could leave drivers at risk for more serious accidents.
Speed is frequently a factor in serious car accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, speed played a role in over one-third of fatal accidents reported in 2012. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune states that IIHS data from 2012 shows illegal or excessive speed was the top cause of single-car crashes. The same factor was also the fourth most common cause of multi-vehicle accidents.
Despite these facts, in recent years, many states have considered or passed legislation that allows drivers to travel at increasingly high speeds. Minnesota is now undertaking similar measures, which could leave drivers in St. Paul facing a greater risk of serious accidents.
Support for faster speeds
In 2014, the state Department of Transportation began a five-year review of all state highways with speed limits of 55 mph. Over the course of the review, the DOT will determine which roads could support faster speed limits. About 6,500 highway miles will be examined. Drivers may see speed limit increases at any point during the coming five years.
Proponents of this project state that higher speed limits may actually help reduce accidents by encouraging more consistent travel speeds. This could ease traffic congestion and prevent accidents between vehicles that are traveling at markedly different speeds.
According to the IIHS, research suggests that speed variation between vehicles can be an important factor in speed-related accidents. The risk of accidents may be greater for vehicles traveling markedly above or below the average speed of traffic. However, research also indicates that raising speed limits may not be the best way to address this issue.
Studies have shown that the average speed of travel on a roadway is not fixed. Instead, it changes to accommodate speed limit increases. A higher speed limit might temporarily remove speed discrepancies between drivers who follow the law and drivers who speed. In time, however, some drivers would start exceeding the limit again, creating more speed variation.
Higher speed limits may also leave drivers vulnerable to more severe accidents. Avoiding accidents may be more difficult for drivers who are traveling at higher speeds. The results of high-speed accidents may also be more devastating. This is because speed has the following effects on a driver and vehicle:
- Speed reduces effective reaction time, since the vehicle covers more distance while the driver reacts
- Speed increases stopping distance, as the vehicle has more momentum
- Speed raises kinetic energy, which must be given off in the event of a crash
The release of kinetic energy may cause vehicle damage or injury to people inside the vehicle. Kinetic energy depends on speed, but it increases at a higher rate. Thus, even small speed increases can have significant impacts on crash energy, increasing the risk of a catastrophic or deadly car crash.
Assistance after accidents
While speed limit increases may offer some benefits, they also can expose drivers to unavoidable risks. Anyone who has suffered injuries in an accident that a speeding or reckless driver caused should consider meeting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to help an accident victim understand his or her rights and legal options.
Keywords: car, auto, accident, injury