Speed limit bill could bring more severe accidents to Maryland

Legislation in Maryland seeks to raise highway speed limits; research suggests that this change could lead to more accidents and more severe outcomes.

Speed is a common cause of car accidents, particularly severe ones. In 2013, speed contributed to 29 percent of all fatal car accidents in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Despite this danger, many states have raised speed limits in recent decades. As many Baltimore residents know, a new Maryland bill seeks to make the same change. Sadly, this could put motorists at a heightened risk of highway accidents.

Proposed changes

The bill would allow speed limits on highways to increase to 70 miles per hour, according to WTOP News. The change would not automatically apply to every highway in Maryland. Instead, safety officials would analyze each stretch of roadway to determine whether a 70 mph speed limit would be acceptable. The increase would likely primarily affect roads with current limits of 60 or 65 mph.

This change may seem minor, but critics have worried about the potential safety impacts. Even small changes in travel speed can lead to markedly more severe crashes. As the IIHS explains, the energy that must be dissipated in a crash increases exponentially compared to speed. The release of this energy is what causes vehicle damage and crash injuries.

Heightened crash likelihood

Higher speed limits may also put drivers at a greater risk of experiencing accidents in the first place. This is because traveling at lower speeds offers drivers the following safety benefits:

  • The vehicle can come to a stop over a shorter distance.
  • The vehicle covers less distance during the time that the driver spends responding to a situation.
  • The vehicle has built up less energy that must be dissipated in the event of a crash.

Additionally, crucial vehicle controls, such as steering and braking, may handle differently depending on the vehicle's speed. Consequently, when drivers travel at higher speeds, they are at risk for accidents, serious injuries and even loss of life.

Serious consequences

Given these effects, it is not surprising that research indicates higher speeds are associated with more fatalities. IIHS research shows that traffic fatalities rose after the national speed limit was abolished and states started setting their own limits. One study estimates that, from 1995 to 2005, over 12,000 lives were lost due to speed limit increases.

In Maryland, officials recently reported that the state's traffic fatality rate had fallen to a 60-year low, according to WBAL TV. This rate reflects the success of safety campaigns and other measures designed to prevent accidents. Sadly, this trend may not continue if the state enacts higher speed limits and highway accidents increase as a result.

Legal recourse

Even if the speed limit bill fails, statistics indicate that speed-related accidents will harm many people in Maryland this year. When these accidents occur because other drivers were acting recklessly, victims may have legal recourse. Consulting with an attorney may be a beneficial first step for anyone who has been hurt in one of these accidents.

Keywords: auto, car, accident, injury