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Road Fatalities and Injuries Up Since 55 MPH Speed Limit Repealed

July 23, 2009

Road fatalities and injuries have increased since the maximum 55 miles-per-hour speed limit on U.S. interstates was repealed, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The 1995 federal speed control law was enacted in 1974 in response to the oil embargo. Lee Friedman, assistant research professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at UIC and lead author of the research by the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, said that during the first year after the law was enacted, a drop of almost 17 percent in fatalities took place.

In 1987, the law was modified to allow states to raise the limit to 65 miles per hour on some interstates. The law was revoked completely in 1995, allowing states to set their own speed laws.

The study found that over the 10-year period following the repeal of the National Maximum Speed Law, about 12,500 deaths took place due to the increased speed limits across the U.S.

The researchers took into account the different characteristics within and between each state, such as car volume density, population density, variations in fleet sizes, the types of vehicles on the road, vehicle quality (newer vehicles vs. older vehicles), and driver characteristics.

The researchers also recommended improved enforcement with speed camera networks to save lives. Speed camera programs have been implemented in England, France and Australia and have shown immediate reductions in motor vehicle crash fatalities, Friedman said.


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