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Why am I against raising speed limits in Michigan?

October 22, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Thank you, Sen. Rick Jones, but as an auto accident attorney, I’m busy enough as it is because of car accidents caused by speeding and distracted driving!

Lawmakers are deciding whether to give the green light to a bill that would raise the speed limit in Michigan to up to 80 miles per hour. Last week, I had the pleasure of appearing on Fox 2’s “Let it Rip” as an auto accident attorney and safety expert on the topic. Also on the panel was Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), who supports the speeding bill and proposed a similar one in 2013.

You would think based upon the e-mails I received after the show from the Internet trolls, that I’d be all for it. To paraphrase the emails I received from several trolls (or were they from Republican legislative staffers for the politicians in favor of raising the speed limits?), most went something like this: Raising speed limits is great for me as an auto accident lawyer. More people involved in car accidents. More serious injuries. More people dead and dying. It’s good for business. I should be all in favor of raising speed limits.

Ah, not quite.

House Bill 4423, proposed by Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oakland County, MI) has been referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. It aims to:

  • Raise the speed limit to up to 80 mph on “rural limited access freeways.”
  • Allow commercial trucks to let commercial trucks to speed at 70 miles an hour on limited access freeways, from the current 60 miles per hour.
  • Allow drivers to go faster in construction zones – from the current 45 miles per hour to “not more than 10 miles per hour less than the speed limit normally posted for that highway segment, but shall not be decreased to less than 30 miles per hour.”

In the most ugly – and literal – sense, the comments from the Internet trolls I’ve received are right.

If the Michigan speed limit is raised up to 80 mph, if trucks are allowed to speed even faster than they do already, and if we allow drivers to go faster in construction zones, there will surely be a lot more car accidents. There will be more truck accidents. There will  be more construction workers killed and construction zone accidents. Injuries will be worse. More people are going to die. In the most literal and ugly sense of things, it would be great for my business as a personal injury lawyer.

And that’s exactly why our attorneys are against this bill.

People forget that we’re in this business to help people, to make people safer.

These are the same reasons I’ve been a huge proponent for driverless cars, including now speaking at several national legal seminars on a world without car accidents (and auto accident lawyers). I know that human error has been responsible for most preventable car and truck accidents. And I know tens of thousands of lives will be saved every single year.

Is it in my financial self-interest? Absolutely not. But it’s in the interest of everyone else and for the public good.

And that’s why everyone here at Michigan Auto law will fight to keep the speed limits where they are – at least until the cell phone manufactures or providers install software that will keep people from texting while driving and doing all of the really dumb things that we as humans do to cause so many fatal wrecks.

Or until distracted driving goes away because we are being driven everywhere in our super-safe Google cars.

For now, there’s too many car accidents as there is.

As I said in “Let it Rip”:

“When you’re going 80 mph, you’re going over 120 feet per second. Two things happen. The first is that the critical, critical safety cushion that allows you to perceive and to react and to prevent an accident, disappears. Because by the time you look up and you’re texting and you see a car in front you, guess what? You’ve already traveled the distance of a football field before you get to take any evasive action. And the second thing that happens is we know, because it’s physics, that speed kills. And trucks annihilate. So not only do you lose that critical safety cushion, but the result of the crashes are going to be far worse.”

As to the proposal to raise the speed limits in Michigan construction zones, a construction worker was just killed last week, according to clickondetroit.com. We send our sincere regards to the family, and hope lawmakers will think of Rafael Castillo Saavedra when they vote on this speeding bill.

It may be great for business, but HB 4423 is a really terrible idea.

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