Report: Speeding Continues to Cause One-Third of Traffic Deaths
Although traffic fatalities in general have dropped in the U.S. in recent years — mostly due to improved auto safety features — crashes caused by speeding continue to account for one-third of traffic deaths every year, according to a report released last Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). A GHSA press release says that in 2010, 10,530 people lost their lives in speeding-related car accidents in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
In fact, the share of traffic deaths linked to speeding has increased by 7% since the year 2000, even as seat belt non-use in fatal crashes dropped by 23%, and deaths from drunk driving dropped by 3%, GHSA writes. “Speed remains the one highway safety area where progress has not been made in almost three decades,” according to GHSA.
The report, “Survey of the States: Speeding and Aggressive Driving,” includes information from an online survey in late 2010 and early 2011, in which highway safety offices in all 50 states and Guam have responded. As Liza Barth writes for ConsumerReports.org:
The GHSA report surveyed all 50 states and found that little has been done to improve state laws on speeding since 2005. In fact, the study shows that some are regressing; Seven states have increased speed limits during that time with some reaching up to 85 mph. Just two states have higher fines for speeders and three states have an excessive speed classification. Eleven states have an aggressive driver law, but only one state has added that law since 2005.
Studies have long shown that higher traffic deaths are attributed to higher speed limits. The most recent was a 2009 study in American Journal of Public Health that looked at the long-term effects of the 1995 repeal of the national speed limit. Researchers found that road fatalities attributed to speeding increased by 3 percent overall and 9 percent on rural interstates. The study estimated that over 12,000 deaths were attributed to an increase in speed limits in the US in the 10 years following the repeal.
Although the report cites numerous reasons for the lack of attention to the speeding problem, as Richard Read writes for The Car Connection, chief among them are public indifference to the issue of speeding and a lack of enforcement personnel. The report says: “Few advocates exist for speed reduction; speeding is a behavior that many people engage in routinely.”
And although almost every state has speed-enforcement tools, such as radar and laser speed-detection devices, most states allow drivers to use technology to avoid speeding tickets. Speeding crashes are likely to involve the same type of driver: young, male, and a resident of a rural area.
As the report lists, while most states have public awareness campaign taglines, such as Arizona’s “Speed Kills” and Indiana’s “Stop Speeding Before Speeding Stops You,” Colorado does not appear on the list as having a campaign tagline. GHSA recommends that states enforce laws against aggressive driving and target enforcement in schools and work zones, areas the driving public supports. The association also suggests that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsor a national high-visibility enforcement campaign to increase public awareness of the dangers of speeding and aggressive driving.