Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Too Early to Draw Conclusions on Higher Speed Limit

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Too Early to Draw Conclusions on Higher Speed Limit

Article excerpt

Since the federal government allowed states to raise highway speed limits last winter, at least eight states that did so report increases in highway deaths, an Associated Press survey found.

On the other hand, four other states that raised their limits reported that their number of fatal accidents dropped.

The conflicting statistics have led the American Automobile Association and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to caution that it's too early to draw firm conclusions. Many states have yet to gather data. But many troopers out on the roads echo Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Robert Flowers, who says he's seeing more damage from high-speed crashes: "It opens vehicles up. Doors come off, windows come in." Slightly more than half the states have increased speed limits on at least some highways since Congress ended the federal cap of 55 mph - 65 mph on rural interstates. Before the change, highway deaths had been increasing for the previous three years, highway safety groups note. And the increases that have occurred since might be attributable to reasons besides higher speeds, including bad weather or higher rates of drunken driving. Early counts show highway deaths up in Alabama, California, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas. Missouri reports 854 traffic deaths so far this year, compared with 796 for the first 10 months of last year. Lt. Ron Beck, a Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman, said officials simply did not know if the jump was because of higher speed limits, now 70 on rural freeways and 60 on city interstates. Illinois has not changed its limits. Lt. Gerald Davidson of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol says that since his state raised limits to 70 mph on most interstates and 65 mph in urban area s, speed has been a factor in 30 percent to 33 percent of traffic deaths, up from 20 percent before. …

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