🔴 AAA study examines data regarding increased and decreased posted speed limits

🔴 It finds no one-size-fits-all answer regarding the impact of these changes

🔴 Speeding is a critical factor in vehicle crashes across the nation

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that raising posted speed limits may do little to save time and increase traffic flow but could lead to more crashes, injuries, and deaths.

What did the study find?

The study analyzed before-and-after data on a dozen roadways, six of which raised posted speed limits, and six which lowered them, and found no one-size-fits-all answer regarding the impact of these changes, said Shani Jarvis, Public Affairs Manager at AAA Northeast.

Among the key findings from the AAA study, raising posted speed limits was associated with increased crash frequencies and rates, and lowering posted speed limits was associated with decreased crash frequencies and rates, said Jarvis.

Additionally, changes in travel times were small in response to both raised and lowered speed limits.

Another interesting tidbit to come of the study is that where speed limits were lowered, an increase in speeding citations was issued. What this shows is that there need to be public awareness campaigns when changes in speed limits are put into effect, Jarvis said.

What was the reason for the study?

Speeding is a critical factor in vehicle crashes across the nation, Jarvis said. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 42,000 traffic deaths in 2021, and again in 2022, the highest level in 16 years. NHTSA reports that speeding was a factor in nearly 29% of the fatalities in 2021 and 27% in 2022.

“That’s a lot. Honestly, the faster you go, the longer it takes you to stop. If you crash, the harder the impact. People think that speeding will get them there a little bit quicker, but it really will not,” Jarvis said.

What does AAA recommend?

AAA recommends that changes in posted speed limits should consider a range of factors, including but not limited to the type of road, surrounding land use, and historical crash data.

“We support automated speed enforcement where appropriate but these systems have to be carefully implemented, they’ve got to maintain community support, they’ve got to prioritize equity, and they’ve got to really factor safety overall,” Jarvis said.

What is the takeaway from the study?

It’s critical to consider the safety implications when local transportation authorities contemplate making changes to speed limits.

“We want to make sure that we are considering all of the road users, and we want to make sure we’re applying a holistic approach when we’re setting or changing the speed limits, and of course, we want to prioritize safety over speed always,” Jarvis said.

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