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How fast is too fast? AAA study questions raising speed limits on highways

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  • Staff Report 

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety questions the safety benefits of raising posted speed limits, arguing they may lead to more crashes, injuries, and fatalities while providing little in terms of time savings or improved traffic flow. The study analyzed 12 different roadway sites, each with newly posted speed limits, finding increased crashes on two interstate highways where limits were raised. Conversely, the study noted fewer crashes when posted speed limits were lowered, although violations increased, pointing to the need for improved public awareness campaigns.

The study’s findings underscore the need for transportation officials to prioritize safety over speed and capacity when setting or changing posted speed limits, according to AAA. “Our study found no one-size-fits-all answer regarding the impact of these changes,” said Dr. David Yang, president and executive director of the AAA Foundation. “However, it is critical to consider the safety implications when local transportation authorities contemplate making changes with posted speed limits.”

Speeding has been a significant contributor to vehicle crashes nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with speeding-related fatalities accounting for 29% and 27% of all traffic deaths in 2021 and 2022 respectively. In light of these findings, AAA recommends that changes in posted speed limits take into account a range of factors, including road type, surrounding land use, and historical crash data. They further advocate for carefully implemented automated speed enforcement programs to bolster safety.