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Potential PA speed limit increase could increase fatal crashes

pa turnpikeSections of the Pennsylvania turnpike and Interstate 380 will be part of a pilot program next month in which the speed limit will be raised to 70 mph. On I-380, a 21-mile stretch was selected for the experimental pilot, which will extend from the Interstate 84 junction in Lackawanna County to the Pocono Pines/Mount Pocono exit in Monroe County. On the Pennsylvania turnpike, the speed limit will be increased on a 100-mile stretch in south central Pennsylvania.

In response to the increased PA speed limit, the Hazleton Standard Speaker reported that a truck and its cargo totaling 80,000 pounds cannot stop for hundreds of feet at 65 mph, and driving faster means it will take even longer to stop. The paper also reported that most of Pennsylvania’s interstates were built during the 1960s and 1970s and designed to accommodate vehicles traveling at maximum speeds of 65 mph. Sections of Interstate 80 in Monroe County have shorter entrance and exit ramps, which will also have to be taken into consideration for safety.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when the speed limit goes up, deaths go up and when the speed limit goes down, deaths go down. They reported a direct correlation between speed limits and crash and fatality risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts 2012 reported that there were more than 33,500 total traffic fatalities in 2012, and nearly one-third, more than 10,200 of the fatalities were speeding-related.

In a statement, PennDOT said that they would be working closely with Pennsylvania State University transportation researchers to evaluate the impact of the two 70 mph zones before considering other interstates for an increased speed limit.

The increase in the top speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph is part of the $2.3 billion state transportation funding package enacted last November by Governor Tom Corbett. The higher limit will go into effect during the week of Aug. 11. According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, if all goes well the rest of the 550-mile toll road system, including the Northeast Extension, could see raised speed limits next spring.

Thirty-seven states have maximum speed limits of 70 mph or higher on interstates or other limited-access roads, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Sixteen allow motorists to drive 75 mph or higher on certain roads. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a high-speed crash, a passenger vehicle is subjected to forces so severe that the vehicle structure cannot withstand the force of the crash and maintain survival space in the occupant compartment. Likewise, as the crash speed gets very high, restraint systems such as airbags and safety belts cannot keep the forces on occupants below severe injury levels.

A 2002 study that evaluated the effects of increasing rural interstate speed limits from 65 mph to either 70 or 75 mph found an increase in crash deaths. States that increased speed limit to 75 mph experienced 38 percent more deaths per million vehicle miles and states that increased it to 70 mph experienced a 35 percent increase.

In an article about the proposed speed limit increase, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted a spokesperson for the Governors Highway Safety Association in Washington, D.C. as stating that the faster you go, the greater your chances of being injured or killed. The question is, is it worth it, the few minutes you’re going to shave off your travel time.

If you’ve been injured in a car or truck accident, call the Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. We can fight for you! For a free consultation, call 855-866-5529

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