Even with traffic volumes recently cut in half during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are dying in car accidents.* Minnesota state officials blame speeding for a significant number of these crash deaths. The State Patrol has handed out a significantly higher than usual number of tickets to drivers clocking over 100 miles per hour. Raw speed inarguably leads to greater forces upon impact, resulting in more deaths and severe injuries per crash.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident or have lost a loved one in a car crash, it is crucial to enlist the services of an experienced personal injury attorney. A good accident attorney begins dealing directly with the insurance companies so you can focus on recovering and rebuilding your life.
When it comes to vehicles traveling in the same direction – as on multi-lane highways – speed variance is a key cause of crashes. When cars and trucks are traveling at different speeds, the number of times one vehicle overtakes or otherwise interacts with others increases. Every lane change, every passing maneuver prompted by cars traveling at different speeds, creates the potential for an accident.
Interestingly, traffic safety research reveals that cars traveling 10 mph below the posted speed limit are more likely to be involved in a crash than those traveling 10 mph above the speed limit. Meanwhile, numerous traffic studies have shown that most people – around 70-75% — exceed the posted speed limit, driving at the speed at which they feel comfortable based on road characteristics, traffic, weather conditions and other factors. (Source: Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology or FHWA.) With traffic down during the pandemic, wide open roads have become a critical factor in drivers’ calculations of acceptable travel speeds. However, even a few other vehicles traveling at slower speeds can change what’s “acceptable” in a heartbeat.
For example, imagine two cars traveling on a nearly empty I-90 at standard speeds, the car in the left lane slowly overtaking the car in the right lane, when the passing vehicle suddenly comes upon a gasoline tanker who has illegally performed a U turn and then is slowly climbing over the top of a hill at well below minimum speed. The truck driver sees the car coming up behind him and pulls into the right lane without signaling, just as the car does likewise. When the trucker then switches back into the left lane without signaling just as the car driver does likewise, the result is a crash and a tragic death.
While the overtaking car might be at or above the speed limit, the variance in speeds caused by a trucker slowly getting up to speed in the passing lane created the situation wherein the crash occurred. This is precisely why experts have long called for equal attention to be given to the dangers of driving slowly as is usually focused on the risks of excessive speed. (Source: FHWA)
Since most drivers do drive somewhat above the posted limit often, many have argued that speed limits should reflect the actual speed at which most drivers travel, thus reducing the variance in speeds for all drivers. Were that the case, law-abiding drivers would feel comfortable traveling at the higher posted speed limit. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but studies show that raising speed limits to match the speed traveled at or below by 85% of drivers on a given road under ideal conditions (referred to as 85th percentile speed) does not induce those who were previously traveling above the limit to drive even faster, according to the FHWA research. Instead, the speed of all drivers becomes more closely aligned and accidents caused by speed variance diminish.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact us today. Suk Law Firm has focused exclusively on personal injury and wrongful death cases since 1988. We’ve recovered more than $125 million on behalf of our clients and are ready to assist you.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”