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A link between higher speed limits and fatality rates

Oklahoma motorists are permitted to drive at 75 mph on some stretches of road, and a bill signed into law by Gov. Fallin in May 2016 allows the state's Department of Transportation to modify speed limits as it sees fit. While laws such as these may be welcome news to long-distance truck drivers and harried commuters, they are unlikely to please road safety groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The nonprofit advocacy group analyzed the impact that rising speed limits have had on traffic accident fatalities, and it concluded that road deaths increase by about 4 percent every time speed limits are increased by 5 mph.

Speed limits in the United States have been increasing since the National Maximum Speed Limit was abandoned in 1995. Lawmakers set the NMSL at 55 mph in 1973 after an OPEC oil boycott almost brought the country to its knees, and they ensured that state lawmakers would comply by linking crucial highway construction and repair funds to the measure's adoption.

According to the IIHS, 11 states have raised speed limits to 75 mph since the law's repeal, and motorists in six states are permitted to drive even faster. The highest speed limits in the United States are found in Texas where drivers can travel at 85 mph on selected stretches of road. The nonprofit safety group says that these increases resulted in an approximate 33,000car accident deaths between 1993 and 2013.

Crashes that take place at high speeds tend to be more serious, and the injuries suffered by occupants of other vehicles are often catastrophic. Experienced personal injury attorneys may look for indications of excessive speed or other reckless behavior when preparing car accident lawsuits, and they could search for this information in the data stored by automobile electronic systems when police reports are inconclusive.

Source: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Speed", July 2017

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