AIA: Increasing Idaho’s Speed Limit is Dangerous

February 11, 2005

Increasing Idaho’s speed limit from 65 mph to 75 mph is dangerous public policy, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA). A bill (SB 1082) introduced by the Senate earlier this month will reportedly exact a terrible toll on Idaho’s citizens in lost lives, more severe traffic crash injuries and increased medical costs.

“Speeding reduces the time drivers have to avoid crashes and lengthens stopping distances, increasing both the likelihood of crashing and the severity of the crashes that occur,” explained David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding is one of the most prevalent reported factors associated with crashes. Speeding is a factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes, killing an average of 1,000 Americans every month. In 2002, more than 13,000 people died in speed-related crashes. NHTSA estimates the economic cost to society of speed-related crashes to be more than $40 billion each year.

“The risk of death and severe injury is a direct exponential function of speed,” explained Snyder. “And in reality, raising the speed limit means that real speeds will be 85 mph – far beyond the ability of car safety systems to prevent serious injuries. These injuries will result in more victims and unnecessary medical costs and productivity losses paid for by the state’s employers, taxpayers and insurance consumers. It is a lose/lose/lose proposition,” he stated.

Additionally, young drivers reportedly speed more often than older drivers. Although speeding is a problem among all driver age groups, the crashes and violations of young drivers are reportedly much more likely to be related to speed than is the case for drivers of other ages. A NHTSA analysis found that the relative proportion of speed-related fatal crashes decreases with increasing driver age.

“About 37 percent of all drivers ages 14-19 involved in fatal crashes were in speed-related crashes, but the percentage among drivers 70 and older decreased to seven (7) percent” said Snyder.

The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 repealed the maximum speed limit, allowing states to set their own limits for the first time since 1974. Many states quickly moved to raise speed limits on both rural and urban interstates and limited access roads. As of June 2003, 29 states had raised speed limits to 70 mph or higher on some portion of their roadway systems.

“The 1995 repeal of the national maximum speed limit resulted in a 15 percent increase in fatalities on interstates and freeways,” Snyder stated. “Increasing the speed limit is just plain bad public policy and AIA is calling on the members of Idaho’s State Senate to oppose this misguided measure. Preserving the speed limit at 65 mph will be a victory for safety and all of Idaho’s citizens,” added Snyder.

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