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AAA Study Shows How Changing Speed Limits Impact Crash Risk

Aerial of San Antonio, Texas expressways at night.

Drivers continue to exceed the speed limit, making speeding the number one contributing factor in Texas traffic crashes. Changing posted speed limits is a frequently suggested tactic to reduce crashes. But a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that, in a given situation, it is difficult to predict how a change in speed will impact drivers. Depending on the circumstances, lowering the speed limit could contribute to a decrease or an increase in car accidents. The same goes for raising the speed limit.

Does Texas have a speeding problem?

Speeding is costing lives in Texas. By some estimates, speeding contributes to nearly 30% of fatal crashes. The faster a vehicle travels, the higher the chance that a serious accident would cause fatalities. A driver traveling 80 miles per hour is four times more likely to die in a car crash than someone driving 60 miles per hour. When drivers are traveling above posted limits, the hazard becomes even worse.

In Texas, the number of car accidents involving speed is skyrocketing. The number of speed-related crashes reported increased by more than 7% from 2020 to 2021. That year, Texas set a 10-year state record for total fatalities involving speed - 1,518 deaths.

However, you don't have to go back to 2021 to find examples of speed-related crashes:

  • In May, a single-vehicle accident in Corpus Christi killed two people. The driver was allegedly speeding while fleeing from the police in regard to a hit-and-run. They lost control of the car and crashed into a power line.
  • Last year speed-related fatal crashes in San Antonio and the surrounding area were recorded on Woodlawn Ave, McCullough Ave, Pine St, Frontage Rd, Basse Rd, US-281, I-35, US-90, Military Dr, and Pecan Valley Dr.

Breaking down the AAA study

The AAA study examined 12 roadway sites in six states that had raised or lowered posted speed limits. Preston Road (TX-289) was among those analyzed. In 2014, the rural road increased the speed limit from 50 to 55 mph. Researchers found that since raising the speed limit, there has been a "marginal" increase in crashes on Preston Road, fewer traffic violations, increased traffic volume, and under the right circumstances, decreased travel time.

AAA concluded that there is no foreseeable "one-size-fits-all" outcome when speeds are changed. In some situations, increasing speeds were associated with a reduction in crashes. Overall, raising posted speed limits was associated with increased crashes. At the same time, the study also found that lowering posted speed limits led to fewer crashes in many cases examined. But the likelihood of speed limit violations increased after lowering posted speed limits, suggesting the need for better public awareness education tied to these changes.

The study's authors concluded that "increasing speed limits may not always yield the positive results envisioned by traffic planners."

Injured in a speed-related crash? Get the legal help you need

Since the 1980s, The Herrera Law Firm has been fighting for the rights of accident victims in San Antonio, TX. We understand the devastating impact that car accidents cause victims and their loved ones. Our dedicated team of attorneys is committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation to those who have suffered due to the negligence of others.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, don't wait to seek legal advice. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation. Let us put our decades of experience and resources to work for you.

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