Proponents of Lowering Houston’s Speed Limits Will like This Study

by Terry Bryant

A recently released study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives proponents of lowering speed limits in Houston some statistical ammunition. The study, which focused on the city of Boston, found that when speed limits were reduced on city streets, drivers slowed down significantly. In January 2017, Boston lowered its standard speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph and publicized its new speed limit in advertisements, on social media, and in traditional media outlets. Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit on all roads in Boston is now 25 mph.

IIHS researchers looked at driving habits on the city’s streets and roads before and after the speed limit was reduced, and then compared the data to similar streets in Providence, Rhode Island, where the speed limit had not been reduced. The data showed that after Boston’s speed limit fell, so did driving speeds.

The odds of drivers exceeding…

  • 35 mph fell by 29.3%
  • 30 mph fell by 8.5%
  • 25 mph fell by 2.9%.

It’s important to point out that this study didn’t look at whether the reduced speed limit has reduced accidents in Boston. Researchers say that is the next step.

However, simple physics tells us that the faster a vehicle is traveling, the longer it will take to stop when encountering an obstacle in the road. On Houston’s crowded city streets, “obstacles” are often pedestrians who have stepped into the roadway or bicyclists traveling in the street. Even a small reduction in speed reduces the possibility of an accident. And when an accident can’t be avoided and the pedestrian or bicyclist is hit, at lower speeds the severity of the person’s injuries should be reduced.

Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that the average risk of severe injury to a pedestrian reaches 25% at an impact speed of 23 mph and 50% at 31 mph, which is double the severe injury risk at only an 8 mph higher speed. The risk of death to a pedestrian is 10% at an impact speed of 23 mph and 25% at 32 mph. As speeds climb, so does the risk for increasingly more severe injuries and death.

The Houston metropolitan area leads the country in car accident fatalities. Every year, an average of 640 people are killed in crashes here, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show. That breaks down to about 12 traffic deaths a week. Thousands more people are seriously injured. Not all of these fatalities are caused by speeding, but many of them are. According to national numbers from the NHTSA, speeding accounted for more than one-quarter of traffic fatalities in 2016.

If reducing speed limits slows drivers down and keeps more drivers from speeding, then isn’t traveling just a few miles slower worth it to prevent injuries and save lives?

At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, we think so. And we are here to help you if you or someone you love has been injured by a speeding driver or in another vehicle accident. Call us at 1 (800) 444-5000 or contact us through our online form. Get the compensation you deserve.