COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Consumer groups are warning the country that we're all driving too fast and the consequences are deadly. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, AAA, and Humanetics released the finding of their study Thursday which found that even modest increases in speed raise the risk for serious injuries in a crash.
Speed limits on interstate highways have gradually increased across the country since the national speed limit was abolished in 1995.
"Today, 41 states have maximum speed limits of 70 miles per hour or more," said Jake Nelson, Director of Traffic Safety and Research for AAA. "Eight of those states have maximum speed limits of 80 miles per hour or more."
Thursday's report follows a previous study published in 2019 by IIHS which found that nearly 37,000 Americans have lost their lives in traffic crashes after the national speed limit was abolished.
"More than a quarter of the traffic fatalities in the US include speed as a contributing factor, and that number has changed very little over the past decade," said David Harkey, President of the IIHS.
To demonstrate the impact of speed on traffic safety, the groups ran a series of crash tests using the same vehicle traveling at speeds of 40, 50, and 56 miles per hour. As the speeds increased, so did the severity of injury risk.
"At the highest speed of 56 miles per hour, we saw that the occupant compartment was significantly compromised, and there was a likelihood of injury to the facial region, to the brain, to the neck, and to the lower leg," Harkey said.
The car used in the crash tests was a 2010 Honda CRV. Harkey explained this vehicle was chosen because it is roughly the same age as the average car on the road today (10-11 years) and because had the highest safety ratings for its type.
The researchers acknowledged that newer vehicles come with more advanced safety systems, but they explained that those features can only go so far.
"Our new research shows pretty clearly that the structural integrity of vehicles today and safety advances like seatbelts and airbags are easily and quickly overwhelmed at just small increases in speed," Nelson said.
"Vehicle design alone is not going to solve this problem," added Harkey.
The study recommends stronger speed enforcement, using saturation patrols by law enforcement along with speed cameras.
They also urge highway engineers and policymakers to prioritize safety, rather than traffic volume, when establishing speed limits.
The researchers also surveyed American drivers for this report. While the majority knew speeding was dangerous, they admitted doing it anyway.