Higher speeds don’t equal adequate protection in event of a crash, joint study says


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Higher speed limits may allow you to get places faster, but it’s at a price.

A joint study by the AAA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates your car won’t offer as much protection at higher speeds as you think if you have an accident.

Researchers found that just a small increase in speed can make a big difference in a crash, despite the safety equipment you may have in your vehicle.

“As you increase the posted speed limit, travel speed tends to move higher,” said IIHS President David Harkey.

We’ve all experienced it, traffic going faster than the speed limit.

On Friday, Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia did a test drive on Interstate 440 in Raleigh. Setting the cruise control at the posted speed of 60 mph in the middle lane, he observed lots of vehicles passing him at much faster speeds.

Experts say vehicles have never been safer and roads have never been more forgiving.

“While that’s true, the crash tests you see on TV happen at speeds of 35-40 miles an hour which are much slower than the speed we travel on interstates where we live,” said AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Jake Nelson.

Federal statistics indicate more than a quarter of the traffic fatalities in the US include speed as a contributing factor.

We ran three moderate overlap tests at speeds of 40, 50, and 56 miles an hour.” said Harkey. “As the speeds increased, so did the likelihood of an increase in injuries the driver.”

“At the highest speed of 56 miles an hour we saw the occupant compartment was significantly compromised and there was the likelihood of injury to the facial region, the brain, the neck and lower leg,” said Harkey.

Speed limits on interstates vary from 55 miles an hour all the way to 85 and there’s no rhyme or reason why.

“We learned speed limits aren’t set in a consistent, best-practices way from one state to the next,” said Nelson.

“Engineers need to look at how we can design roadways and set speed limits that account for local conditions of the community and what the intended use of the roadway is,” said Harkey.

It’s obvious to researchers that vehicle design alone won’t solve the problem of surviving high-speed crashes.

They say we also need to develop programs that will change driver’s attitudes.

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