The State of Virginia is changing legislation to increase the speed limit on some portions of its highways to 70 miles per hour, an increase of 5 to 15 miles per hour over current speed limits. This proposal, due to occur July 1, 2010, has sparked debate about safety issues which may have ramifications for those involved in car accidents in the future.
Some feel that increasing speed limits is an invitation to reckless driving and more accidents. While there have been increased accidents reported in areas where speed limits have been increased, in other areas the speed limit increases seem to have caused the number of accidents to decline.
The explanation for this may be in something called “speed variance.” More accidents seem to occur when a fast driver encounters a slow driver, causing avoidance maneuvering or other unsafe driving behavior. Proponents of the new legislation claim that by raising the speed limit, speed variance will decline and with it, the number of accidents.
Opponents argue that while speed variance may account for many accidents, the issue is not only in volume of accidents. Accidents that occur at high rates of speed are far more often fatal than low-speed collisions. By raising the speed limit, opponents of the change argue, more people will drive at even faster speeds, perhaps as much as ten to twenty miles per hour over the limit–which would put them at 90 miles per hour. Even at the proposed speed of 70 miles per hour, the likelihood of a fatal crash is substantially greater than at the current limit urban freeways.
For those involved in car accidents, the issue of speed limit may become important once this legislation has passed. Raising the speed limit legally allows people to drive faster, and if an accident occurs, it may be more difficult to prove negligence on the part of the driver. However, whatever the speed limit, liability issues still rest on the same foundation as always–unsafe driving behavior, driving too fast for conditions, or driving under the influence of alcohol, the most common reasons for accidents.
While changing the speed limit will not substantially affect liability if a driver is unsafe and causes an accident, it may create more serious injuries and higher fatality rates. If raising the speed limit causes even one additional fatality, it is not a worthwhile change. Even if lower speeds are creating a greater volume of accidents, by reducing injuries and fatalities, lower speed limits serve the important purpose of keeping the roads safer for the people of Virginia.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed in an automobile accident, you should contact the Brain Injury Law Center immediately for an evaluation of your claim. Be sure to talk to us before settling a claim with an insurance company or private individual. Only a qualified attorney can examine the law and give you sound advice regarding your potential claims.