Report flashes red light on speeding

A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association determined that exceeding the speed limit is the cause of one-third of all fatal car accidents in the United States. This is disturbing news, especially considering that some states have even gone so far as to raise the speed limit on their roadways, though Massachusetts was not one of them.

These speed limit increases came at the insistence of the National Motorists Association, which was actually founded to increase the national speed limit of 55 mph. The group continues to argue that our nation’s highways are safe by pointing to the drop in fatality rates since 1995 — even with the increased speed limits.

Does increasing the speed limit lead to more fatal motor vehicle accidents, or is driving excessively fast in an area where it is dangerous to do so the problem that really needs to be addressed?

Another related question is what does it mean that an accident was speed-related?

What it certainly does not mean is that speeding itself caused the accident, but rather that at least one of the cars was assumed to have been speeding.

In fact, speeding can really mean any number of things, including:

  • Improper lane changes
  • Following too closely
  • Unsafe passing
  • Driver inattention
  • Aggressive driving

So how should Massachusetts authorities react to this new report?

Since aggressive driving is certainly a threat to the public safety, perhaps more enforcement is necessary to enforce laws against this behavior. Perhaps targeting speed enforcement in areas such as work and school zones will be most effective in raising awareness about the dangers of speeding. Alternatively, perhaps using speed cameras to determine the average speed of drivers and then setting the appropriate speed limit is the best route.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, “New Study: Little Progress in Reducing Speeding-Related Traffic Deaths,” March 8, 2012