Understanding the Purpose and Benefits of Speed Limits

All good drivers know that one of the most important rules for the road is to always abide by the posted speed limit. Just about everyone has seen these signs and knows what they represent: the maximum allowable driving speed in a particular area. However, it’s easy to lose sight of the true importance of speed limits and the vital function they serve in ensuring safety for motorists and pedestrians alike. This blog post will share some facts that we at Whiting Law think everyone can benefit from.


The first recorded speed limit in history was enacted in the United Kingdom with the Locomotive Act of 1861, which restricted automobiles from traveling any faster than 10 mph on main roads or 5 mph in residential zones. Can you imagine what it would be like if we had a similar law in effect these days? Trying to get anywhere while being unable to move quicker than 10 mph the entire time would be a nightmare!


In the United States today, average speed limits range from 55 to 78 mph, with Michigan on the higher end at 70 mph. But how are these numbers decided upon? There are different methods for calculating suitable limits, but they all generally rely on a piece of data called the 85th percentile speed, which is a measurement of the typical speed at which 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling in a particular domain. Lawmakers use this information as the basis to determine a reasonable speed limit.


Speed limits can only be modified through legislation. If traffic isn’t running efficiently in a particular place, the state Department of Transportation will assess the situation, and if the speed limit is found to be at fault, a new public bill may be prepared to correct it. Citizens cannot directly request speed limit changes.


Speed limits were put in action to keep people safe, but they are frequently not observed. According to a questionnaire distributed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 50.3% of drivers have admitted to driving 15 mph over the limit on a freeway and 47.6% admitted to driving 10 mph over the limit on residential streets.


Based on those numbers, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that speeding is the most common reason why a driver will be pulled over. That same research also revealed that 49% of those motorists subsequently received citation. The cost of a speeding ticket is set by the city government where the infraction occurred, but typically increases depending on how many miles above the limit you were traveling.


The consequences of breaking the speed limit can be much more serious than simply having to pay a fine, though. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, speeding was responsible for the deaths of 10,111 people, accounting for 27% of fatal auto accidents. The victims in these accidents extend beyond just the speeding drivers themselves; others on the road who were driving safely and pedestrians have also been killed in these tragic incidents.


Here’s Whiting Law’s advice for staying safe on the road and avoiding an accident or injury:

  1. Always be aware of the speed limit in the area where you’re driving, and stick to it.
  2. In bad weather (particularly icy times), your control over your car will be impaired. Drive slower than the posted limit to accommodate this.
  3. If you’re frustrated because of traffic congestion, a speed limit that seems too low, or you’re simply running late, avoid giving into anger and making an unwise decision. Instead, cool yourself down by practicing deep breathing or playing pleasant music.

Keeping the road a safe place is the responsibility of all drivers, and laws exist to help us do that. These regulations also serve to protect you in case of an accident, and an attorney will be able to utilize them to help you win justice. If you or a loved one has recently been in a road collision, contact one of our attorneys right away.

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