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Banning Texting, Twitter and Cell Phone Use in Cars Isn’t Enough __ Increasing Speed Limits Spikes Automobile Accident Death and Injury Toll According to New Study

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Ever here the saying that "speed kills". Well its true according to a recent study of deaths on U.S. highways. But does this apply in Hawaii? Are Honolulu and Oahu roads in need of new lower speed limits? I will tell Hawaii residents and politicians that the new study did not include Hawaii. Is that because we already have lower speed limits? Should they be even lower? The subject is not "statistics. The subject is injury or death from an automobile accident. Death is so tragic that it shouldn’t be lost behind a statistic. Read on and tell me what you think. I wonder if any Hawaii politicians or traffic engineers or police officials have experience in this debate as it applies to roads on Oahu or throughout Hawaii?

A new American Journal of Public Health study concludes that increased speed limits resulted in 12,500 more deaths on US roads between 1995 and 2005. The AJPH study: Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States was reviewed recently in the New York Times by journalist ERIC NAGOURNEY:

The repeal of the national 55-mile-per-hour speed limit has made American highways a much deadlier place, a new study says.

The “failed policy of increased speed limits,” researchers write, was to blame for an estimated 12,500 deaths over a 10-year period. Their report appears in The American Journal of Public Health.

In 1974, hoping to reduce fuel consumption, Congress set a national speed limit of 55. After easing it in 1987, lawmakers got rid of it entirely in 1995, and since then the speed limit has risen in every state, the researchers said.

The study was based on highway fatality rates throughout most of the country. It found that while road deaths went down after the speed limit was lowered in 1974, they went back up an average of about 3 percent after 1995.

The lead author, Lee S. Friedman of the University of Illinois in Chicago, said that after the speed limit was removed, safety changes like the a

To date, Friedman and his team note in their report, most studies of the effects of speed limit changes on highway fatalities and injuries have looked at only a couple of years’ worth of data, in only a few states. In their analysis, the researchers looked at traffic fatalities in every US state except Massachusetts and Hawaii over the decade after the change in Federal law. According to the study:

The National Maximum Speed Law, passed in 1974, put a 55 mph speed limit on all interstate roads. The law was intended to cut fuel consumption in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, but it also led to a 16.4% reduction in car crash mortality from 1973 to 1974, Friedman and his colleagues note in their report.

In 1987, Congress passed the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act allowing states to lift the speed limit on rural interstates to 65 mph, which 41 states did. In 1995, Congress passed the National Highway Designation Act, which wiped out all federal speed limits.

Overall, Friedman and his team found that increased speed limits led to a 3.2% jump in road deaths. On rural interstates, car crash deaths increased 9.1%, while the increase for urban interstates was 4%.

States that raised speed limits from 55 mph to 65 mph had the biggest increases in fatalities. States that did not raise speed limits had a decline in deaths.

Overall, Friedman and his colleagues estimate that the federal law change led to 12,545 more deaths on US highways, and 36,583 more injuries in fatal crashes.

The authors of this study point to both reducing death and injury, but also lowering carbon emissions and reducing foreign oil dependence as natural results of lowering speed limits. How could that happen? The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act is coming up for renewal this November and reduced federal speed limits could be implemented by Congress through that legislation.

Friedman also supports traffic cameras:

More speed cameras could also help make roads safer, Friedman added. These are automated systems that take photos of speeders and their license plates, and then send the offender a ticket in the mail.

"You don’t have the fun of having a police officer pull you over and take your license," Friedman said. Nevertheless, he added, "these systems are very effective for reducing and controlling systematic speeding."

The study did not include Hawaii but would any local driver disagree that speed is a major factor in personal injury and death on Hawaii roads? Can we live with lower speed limits in areas of Hawaii. I do believe that 55 mph is our highest speed limit so maybe we are about as low as we can get. What do you think?

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Speed is still very much the issue, thanks so much for the very helpful information.