Will new and pending speed limit increases endanger IL drivers?

Illinois has raised truck speed limits and is considering raising tollway speed limits, which could have negative impacts on roadway safety.

Drivers in East Peoria may soon see significantly faster travel times on their tollway commutes. The Chicago Sun Times reports that, under a new law, Illinois tollway speed limits may rise from 55 to 70 miles per hour, pending completion of a traffic engineering study and approval from authorities. Illinois also has raised suburban highway truck speed limits from 55 to 60 miles per hour. Unfortunately, these changes may adversely affect roadway safety by making serious car accidents more likely.

How speed impacts crash likelihood, severity

Speed can raise the likelihood of a crash occurring and increase the risk of the crash being severe, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A driver traveling at a faster speed will cover more distance in the time necessary to respond to an emergency situation. A vehicle traveling at a greater speed will also need more distance to stop. These factors reduce a driver's likelihood of successfully avoiding an accident.

If an accident occurs, its severity is directly related to the speed of travel because speed determines the amount of energy that must be dispelled in the crash. Crash energy increases exponentially in proportion to speed - for example, the IIHs states that a 50 percent increase in travel speed results in 125 percent more kinetic energy that must be dissipated during the crash. Greater crash energy makes damage to the vehicle and injury to its occupants more likely.

These same factors can be especially notable with large trucks, which require more time to stop and weigh more than passenger vehicles, leading to even greater increases in crash energy.

Misconceptions about higher speed limits

Proponents of higher speed limits often state that these limits can decrease accidents by reducing differences in travel speed. Limited research suggests that cars traveling well above or below the speed limit are more likely to experience accidents. A higher speed limit theoretically reduces speed discrepancies between drivers who follow the law and those who break it, which could lower the risk of accidents.

In practice, however, studies show the average speed of traffic tends to increase when speed limits are raised. This finding suggests that increasing speed limits to address variations in travel speed is only a temporary solution. This means that if the higher tollway speed limits are approved, Illinois drivers may still be left exposed to the dangers that come with speed variation, along with the risks of traveling at a significantly higher speed.

Help for speed-related accidents

The consequences of accidents that occur at excessive speeds can be devastating. Drivers who cause accidents while speeding may be found negligent if they are violating traffic laws or traveling at a speed that is unsafe given the conditions. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving one of these drivers should consider speaking to an attorney to determine whether pursuing compensation is an option.

Keywords: truck, accident, injury