Despite evidence that more generous speed limits make driving riskier, states have steadily raised their posted speed limits.
Forty-one states, including Colorado, now allow speeds of 70 miles per hour or more on certain roads. Eight states have speed limits of 80 miles per hour or more.
According to a 2019 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), rising speed limits have contributed to an estimated 36,760 fatalities over 25 years — deaths that might have been prevented if speed limits had not been increased during this period. A recent crash-test study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Colorado’s suggests that speed limits of 70 plus miles per hour may be too high given the impact on safety, accidents, and related costs.
According to the AAA research, as speed on impact during a crash increases, the risk of serious or worse overall injury also increases. At an impact speed of 40 miles per hour, researchers found a 15 percent risk of serious injury or worse during a crash. At an impact speed of 50 miles per hour, the risk increase to 59 percent; at 55.9 miles per hour, to 78 percent.
“You can get on I-76 right outside of Denver and go 70 legally, and I like driving at that speed,” says Skyler McKinley, AAA Colorado spokesperson. “But we need to start having tough conversations about what that costs us, including what it costs us as taxpayers because of all the wrecks, and what that does to our insurance rates.”
Reasonable and Prudent Is the Rule in Colorado
A blanket law in Colorado calls for reasonable and prudent speeds on all roads — driving no faster or slower than is reasonable given current road conditions. Minimum speeds are considered necessary as well, so that drivers do not impede or block the flow of traffic.
Unless otherwise posted, the speed limits are 20 mph on winding, narrow mountain roads and blind curves; 25 mph in central business districts; 30 mph in residential areas; 40 mph on open mountain highways; 55 mph to 66 mph on rural highways, including two-lane and four-lane divided roadways; and 65 mph to 75 mph on rural interstates.
In addition, Colorado has enacted a move-right law that allows passing in the left lane only when traffic is light. The law applies on divided highways with speed limits of 65 mph or higher.
Cities are also free to adopt a blanket speed limit, such as 25 mph (unless a different speed limit is posted).
IIHS reports that drivers often drive faster than legal speed limits, and when speed limits are raised to match these higher-than-posted speeds, motorists tend to drive still faster. Higher speed limits tend to counteract the benefits of vehicle safety features like airbags and improved design. According to Dr. David Harkey, the institute’s president: “The faster a driver is going before a crash, the less likely it is that they’ll be able to get down to a survivable speed even if they have a chance to brake before impact.”
Contact an Experienced Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen online or call 303-454-8000 or 800-ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.