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Is driving faster worth 28% more deaths on our roads?

February 25, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

MDOT-sponsored study shows 28% increase in traffic crash fatalities if – as House Bills 4423 and 4425 propose – speed limit goes from 55 mph to 65 mph on Michigan non-freeways

65 mph speed limit, image

Today, in the last of my three-part blog post series about the deadly consequences of increasing Michigan speed limits, I’m going talk about what research has shown will happen if the speed limit is increased from 55 mph to 65 mph on non-freeways in Michigan.

Proponents of increasing speed limits, like Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford, MI), lead sponsor of the pending speed-limit-increase legislation, House Bill 4423, and Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge, MI), of 35 mph speed trap fame when we debated the issue on Fox News, aren’t talking about it.

But raising speed limits will result in more people being seriously injured and killed in deadly motor vehicle accidents. A Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)-sponsored study has shown:

  • Increasing the speed limits on non-freeways from 55 mph to 65 mph  (as Rep. Jacobsen’s House Bill 4423 and Rep. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes)’s House Bill 4425 propose to do) would “result in fatal … crash rates increasing by 28.1 percent …”(“Evaluating Outcomes of Raising Speed Limits on High Speed Non-Freeways,” MDOT Research Administration Project Number: RC-1609B, April 2, 2015, Pages 86-87)

A “non-freeway” (i.e., a regular “highway”) is different from a “freeway” in Michigan because a non-freeway is generally undivided, whereas a “freeway” is “divided.” (See MCL 257.18a) Additionally, freeways, generally, have a higher maximum speed limit than non-freeways. (Compare MCL 257.628(1) to 257.628(8))

28% increase in car accident traffic fatalities

Specifically, the 2015 MDOT-sponsored study, “Evaluating Outcomes of Raising Speed Limits on High-Speed Non-Freeways,” found that increasing the speed limit on non-freeways from 55 mph to 65 mph would result in the following:

28.1% increase in “fatal” car accident crashes.

Although the 2015 study was prompted by legislation introduced in 2014, the 2015 MDOT-sponsored study’s conclusions are relevant to the currently-pending speed-limit-increase proposals in Rep. Jacobsen’s House Bill 4423 and Rep. Outman’s HB 4425.

That’s because the 2014 proposals in Senate Bills 896 and 898 (both of which were introduced on March 27, 2014) and House Bills 5962 and 5964 (both of which introduced on November 13, 2014) are identical to the proposals contained in HB 4423/4425 – right down to the use of the same wording (verbatim) and the language appearing on the same page and line numbers.

This makes sense, though: The sponsors on HB 5964 and on SB 898 were Rep. Jacobsen and Sen. Jones, respectively.

Progress of ‘speed limit’ bill for non-freeways

On April 14, 2015, Rep. Jacobsen introduced House Bill 4423 – and Rep. Outman introduced House Bill 4425 – which proposed to increase the speed limit from 55 mph to 65 mph on non-freeways.

Below is a chart showing how HB 4423 and HB 4425 and the Committee-approved versions of the bills stack up to Michigan’s existing law for speed limits on non-freeways:

Michigan speed limit laws, image

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