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Higher Michigan Speed Limits Will Result in More Traffic Deaths

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  • A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says higher speed limits have caused 37,000 additional traffic deaths between 1993 and 2017 and new standards may need to be recommended to lower mph limits.
  • IIHS researchers found that a 5 mph increase in the maximum speed limit was associated with an eight percent increase in the fatality rate on interstates and freeways.
  • Michigan raised speed limits to 75 on some highways in 2017. 40 other states also have a 75 mile per hour speed limit.
  • More than half of Michigan’s speed-related deaths in 2018 were alcohol related.

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Are Higher Speed Limits Worth the Rise in Traffic Fatalities?

New data released from the leaders at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Governors Highway Safety Association has sparked interest in developing a speed management program designed to provide better recommendations and traffic engineering changes to reduce high-speed crashes related to speed limit increases on American roads. Although the rise in speed limits has gained popularity over the last three decades by 41 U.S. states, updated statistics now show more lives are being lost due to the mph increases, leaving roadway system managers left to configure new safe speed recommendations for the future.

The new study by IIHS showed that raising speed limits over the past 25 years has cost nearly 37,000 lives, including more than 1,900 in 2017 alone.

  • A 5 mph increase in the maximum state speed limit was associated with an 8.5 percent increase in fatality rates on interstates/freeways and a 2.8 percent increase on other roads.
  • In total during the 25-year study period, there were an estimated 36,760 more traffic fatalities than would have been expected if maximum speed limits had not increased—13,638 on interstates/freeways and 23,122 on other roads.

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Michigan Roads with Higher Speed Limits

Michigan raised speed limits to 75 on some highways back in 2017 charged by Public Acts 445, 446, and 447. The increase impacted 900 miles of non-freeways in Michigan to 65 mph, and on 600 miles of freeways to 75 mph, supported at the time by speed, engineering, and safety studies. Routes with increases to 75 included areas of:

  • I-69: Clinton, Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, and St. Clair Counties (84 total miles)
  • I-75: Bay, Arenac, Ogemaw, Roscommon, Crawford, Otsego, Cheboygan, Emmet, Mackinac, and Chippewa Counties (225 total miles)
  • US-10: Clare, Isabella, Midland, and Bay Counties (57 total miles)
  • US-31: Oceana and Mason Counties (37 total miles)
  • US-127: Clinton, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare, Roscommon, and Crawford Counties (116 total miles)
  • US-131: Kent, Montcalm, Mecosta, Osceola, and Wexford Counties (95 total miles)

40 other states also have a 75 mile per hour speed limit. Six other states, including Texas, have speed limits of 80 or 85.

Factors That Drive Speed

About 10,000 people a year die in speed-related crashes, according to the IIHS. In Michigan, that number was around 185 fatalities for 2018 reported by Michigan State Police. Alcohol was a factor in nearly half of those speed-related crash fatalities. Drivers who speed are also likely to be more aggressive and practice other bad driving habits that put other motorists, as well as pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists at risk of death or serious injuries. So, if you are a “speedster” be warned as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says you may have:

  • Greater potential for loss of vehicle control;
  • Reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment;
  • Increased stopping distance after the driver perceives a danger;
  • Increased degree of crash severity leading to more severe injuries;
  • Economic implications of a speed-related crash; and
  • Increased fuel consumption/cost.

Drivers who speed are also most impacted by four factors identified by the Department of Transportation. These occurrences are known to create an overall rise in speeding and speed-related aggressive driving crashes.

  1. Traffic: Traffic congestion is one of the most frequently mentioned contributing factors to aggressive driving, such as speeding. Drivers may respond by using aggressive driving behaviors, including speeding, changing lanes frequently, or becoming angry at anyone who they believe impedes their progress.
  2. Running Late: Some people speed or drive aggressively because they have too much to do and are “running late” for work, school, their next meeting, lesson, soccer game, or another appointment.
  3. Anonymity: A motor vehicle insulates the driver from the world. Shielded from the outside environment, a driver can develop a sense of detachment, as if an observer of their surroundings, rather than a participant. This can lead to some people feeling less constrained in their behavior when others can’t see them or when it is unlikely that they will ever again see those who witness their behavior.
  4. Driving While Under the Influence: Motorists should never put others at risk by driving after using drugs or alcohol. Drugs or alcohol and speeding are clearly deadly combinations because a driver may feel invincible and ignite dangerous or risky driving behaviors. Never operate a motor vehicle if impaired.

While it may not be too easy or even possible to lower speed limits immediately, should Michigan pause on raising them until new recommendations or standards are released? Until then, our advice is to drive the posted speed limit, sober and never distracted, follow the rules of the road and travel in the right lane vs. the left if a speed feels uncomfortable for you, or have others drive you to your destination.

Also, get to know Michigan’s highway safety advocates, researchers, and local, state officials, and what their approach to the problem may be in the future and we will do our best to keep you updated, safe, and accident-free at any speed in the meantime.

The Lee Steinberg Law Firm Can Handle Your Accident Injury Claim

If you or a family member is a victim of an accident caused by a reckless or speeding driver, be sure to seek out the qualified advice of a car accident attorney before discussing anything with an insurance company. The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., has been representing accident victims for over 40 years, and we can help you through this challenging and stressful time.

Contact us today for a free consultation about your potential case or call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE.

Source: The effects of higher speed limits on traffic fatalities in the United States, 1993–2017, April 2019 AND Federal Highway Administration. (2019). Highway Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from