Will Legislative Push for Higher Speed Limits Endanger MN Motorists?

Minnesota is reviewing and potentially increasing speed limits on thousands of miles of road, which may leave motorists in danger of more severe accidents.

Many people in Woodbury face long commutes and would love to be able to complete their daily drives more quickly. Many of these drivers may welcome the news that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is now considering widespread speed limit increases on certain state roads. Unfortunately, though, research suggests this change may leave motorists at risk for more frequent or severe auto accidents.

A need for speed

Legislation passed at the end of the 2014 session requires the Minnesota DOT to consider the feasibility of speed limit increases on all state roads with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, according to the Star Tribune. About 6,700 miles of roadway will be subject to review. The DOT has until 2019 to complete the project, but changes may be evident sooner, since speed limits will be adjusted as road reviews are completed.

In recent years, several other states have shown a tendency toward raising speed limits; some, like Texas, have raised limits as high as 85 miles per hour. In Minnesota, interstate speed limits are set between 60 and 75 miles per hour, while other roads can have a maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour. The roads being reviewed now could see new speed limits of 60 miles per hour.

Proponents contend that, besides reducing drive times, these changes will reduce accidents by decreasing the speed differential between motorists who speed and motorists who observe the law. Differences in speed of travel can contribute to accidents; according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, some studies have found that vehicles traveling well above or below the average rate of travel have a higher likelihood of accident involvement.

Unfortunately, raising speed limits is not a proven way to eliminate speed differentials. As speed limits increase, average speed of travel increases, too. These higher overall travel speeds may leave motorists exposed to more serious accidents.

Steep consequences

Speed is a factor in nearly one-third of U.S. motor vehicle fatalities, according to the IIHS. In 2012, more than 10,000 lives were lost in speed-related accidents. Several variables unavoidably increase the risk of accidents and severe or even catastrophic injuries when vehicles are traveling at high speeds, including the following factors:

  • Drivers traveling at higher speeds will cover a greater distance during the standard amount of time needed to react to an urgent situation.
  • Vehicles traveling at higher speeds will need more space to stop, further increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Crash energy grows exponentially relative to speed - for instance, a 50 percent increase in speed leads to a 125 percent increase in energy that must be dispelled during the crash - which means even small speed increases can have significant impacts.

These figures reveal that the gains higher speed limits offer may easily be offset by the safety risks. Unfortunately, with speed limits for so many miles of Minnesota road under review, it's likely that the state's motorists will soon face a greater risk of speed-related accidents.

Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving a driver who was speeding or otherwise acting recklessly should speak with an attorney about seeking compensation.

Keywords: speeding, accident, injury