Speed kills, and now we have more
Legislation to make rural Indiana interstate highways more dangerous went into effect Friday. That’s when the speed limit was increased from 65 to 70 miles per hour.
‘I think it’s a crock. Speed kills,’ said Capt. Jim Sadler of the Corydon Police Dept.
‘At 70 mph, you are definitely out-driving your headlights,’ said Marshal Todd Stinson of the CPD, ‘and that’s the high beam.’
‘If you raise it to 70, they are going to go 80 to 85,’ Chief Marshal James Kendall said.
Their comments echoed those of opponents of higher speeds.
The change sends a confusing message at a time when analysts are forecasting gas prices as high as $3 a gallon and new seat-belt and child-restraint laws are coming into effect.
When we drive faster, we definitely use more gas, a lot more.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, fuel use increases 20 percent from 55 to 65 mph and another 25 percent from 65 to 75 mph.
In California in 1995, interstate highways posting a 70 mph speed limit reported a mean speed of 74. A traffic study recorded that more than 69 percent of drivers were exceeding 70 mph and 19 percent passed 80 mph. That’s a lot of gas. And speed.
And as far as those seat belts and child restraints, we better use them.
A much-referenced study of higher speeds on rural interstate highways found states that had increased their speed limits to 70 mph also raised their deaths per million vehicles by 35 percent.
The Traffic Safety Research Division of the Federal Highway Administration has said the relationship between higher speed limits and automobile fatalities is false.
‘If this were true, the U.S. Interstate System would have the worst, not the best, safety record. Instead, interstates have the highest speed limits, the highest operational speeds, and the lowest fatality rate in America,’ a release by the agency said.
They’re the experts.
Of course, interstate highways all but eliminate the number one cause of automobile fatalities: stationary objects struck when vehicles leave the roadway. And they’ve all but removed the top cause for fatalities involving automobiles that are abiding by all traffic laws: colliding with a vehicle traveling left of the center line.
Is it possible that those factors are responsible for that low fatality rate of .88 per 100 million vehicle miles?
Or maybe it’s like the Traffic Safety Research Division people say. They believe that higher speed limits narrow the range of traveling speeds on the interstate. More drivers are on the same page with their velocity, and that means a more consistent flow and fewer opportunities for accidents.
It’s an interesting theory only because it runs contrary to common sense and statistical data.
A higher speed limit broadens the mathematical possibilities for legal traveling speeds at a time when drivers over age 80 are the fastest growing segment on many roadways. And we’ve already discussed those fatality rates.
Speed is reported as a factor in 30 percent of fatal crashes and 12 percent of all crashes. And statistics show that states that raise speed limits on interstate highways and freeways also recorded a six-percent increase in fatalities on all roads.
In Canada, the United States has become an example used by opponents of higher speeds. The Canada Safety Council said those promoting a raise in speed limits seldom consider factors like increased insurance rates, impact of safety, impact on the environment, increased risk in policing high-speed offenders, the growing population of elderly drivers, and the growing numbers of older automobiles on the roadways.
Now Indiana has its turn to be an example of how speed kills.