Over the past 25 years or so, highway speed limits have gone up in most states, including Tennessee. We once had a nationwide speed limit of 55 mph, but now the interstate speed limit in Tennessee is 70 mph. Some states have 80 mph limits or even higher.

A new study has found that rising speed limits are costing lives. In 2019, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and a crash-test dummy manufacturer called Humanetics released a study finding that rising speed limits in the U.S. have likely caused almost 37,000 additional deaths over the past 25 years.

The main finding of this year’s study is that crashes at faster speeds are simply more deadly, even in today’s safer cars. Indeed, just 10 mph can make the difference between a survivable crash and a catastrophic one.

Crash tests at 40, 50 and 56 mph

For the new study, the researchers selected a car (the 2010 CR-V EX crossover) that was about the average age of vehicles on American roads and which had earned a top rating in an IIHS crash test.

They crashed three CR-Vs into barriers at 40, 50 and 56 mph. The crossovers were fitted with crash-test dummies that had hundreds of sensors.

  • At 40 mph, there was “minimal intrusion” into the area of the vehicle housing the driver. That means the driver would probably survive the crash.
  • At 50 mph, however, the car became more heavily damaged. There was “noticeable deformation” of the driver’s door opening, the foot area and the dashboard. That could indicate severe injuries for the driver.
  • At 56 mph, the interior of the vehicle was “significantly compromised.” The sensors on the dummy indicated a probability of severe neck injuries and fractures to the lower leg.

Moreover, at both 50 and 56 mph, the steering wheel was forced upward, where it penetrated the deployed airbag and crashed into the dummy’s face. The sensors indicated this would likely cause facial fractures and a severe brain injury.

Even if you are a good driver, you should consider moderating your speed. Not every driver is as dedicated as you are and, if they make a mistake at 50 or 56 mph, you could be seriously injured.

If you are injured in a car crash, you may have legal rights to protect. Work with a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile to help.