Increase in Freeway Car Accidents Caused by Higher Speed Limit

Published on December 20th, 2022

high speed limits michigan freeway car accidents thurswell lawA recent study by Michigan State University found an increase in freeway car accidents and fatalities over the last five years. The cause for this jump? MSU believes the blame lies with the speed limit increase by the state of Michigan in 2017, where roughly 600 miles of freeway were posted at 75 miles per hour and speed limits for trucks increased by 5 mph on all freeways across the state.

MSU Study: Higher Speed Limit, More Car Accidents

“We collected data on things like traffic volumes, roadway characteristics, so things like lane width, shoulder width, median width, etc. And then also travel speed data before and after the limits have changed,” said Dr. Peter Savolainen, an MSU engineering professor who led the study.

Over the past 4.5 years, MSU researchers uncovered the increase in car accidents on freeways occurred where the speed was also increased. They also found that there was a small reduction in crashes on the road where speed limits were not increased. Crash numbers rose nearly 17%, from an average of 3,624 per year in the three years before the speed limit change to an average of 4,214 in 2018 and 2019. Fatal crashes rose from about 11 to 18 per year, a 63% increase, according to Savolainen.

“At some control sites that stayed at 70 miles per hour and so if you look just at the raw numbers, we actually see that crashes went up at both sites, but part of that was driven by the fact that there were more vehicles on the road afterwards at both of those,” Dr. Savolainen said. “So, once you normalize for volume, the actual rate of crashes was lower at the control sites.”

Reckless Driving Gets Even More Dangerous

There are many causes of car accidents. Drunk driving and distracted driving are always at the top of the list but combine these with speeding and the recipe for disaster is even stronger. Michigan State Police cite speeding as one of the main culprits behind fatal crashes. The priority of the state police is to ensure that motorists are traveling at the posted speed limits designated for the roadway they’re on.

A lieutenant with the Michigan State Police reports that officers receive a great deal of questions about how fast a driver is permitted to go before they receive a ticket. The answer is simple: Drive even one mile above the speed limit and you can get a ticket. Many people tend to push their vehicle to at least five miles past the posted speed limit so, in the case of 75 mph freeways, they could potentially be traveling at 80 mph or more.

Higher Speed Limits Mean More Severe Car Accidents

In short, as speed limits rise, so do crash numbers, and the severity of the crashes. If you have been involved in a car accident caused by speeding or reckless driving, and are seeking justice from an insurance company, contact the Michigan personal injury attorneys at Thurswell Law to get compensation. Schedule a consultation by calling (248) 354-2222 today. We do not charge any fees until we win.

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