While most drivers are well aware that the maximum posted speed limit here in Florida is 70 mph and may even wish it was a bit higher, it’s important to note that it wasn’t all that long ago that the posted speed limit was far lower.

Indeed, back in 1973, Congress passed the National Maximum Speed Limit out of concern over safety and, more significantly, fuel conservation. This federal law essentially declared that unless a state set its speed limit to 55 mph, it would forfeit its portion of highway funds. Desperate for these funds, the states complied.

These concerns over fuel conservation started to recede over the next decade, however, with Congress allowing the states to set the speed limit to 65 mph on rural interstates in 1987 and finally repealing the national speed limit law in 1995.

This, in turn, gave the states the power to raise their speed limits and, since that time, the vast majority has done so. Indeed, there are currently six states with a maximum posted speed limit of 80 mph.

Interestingly enough, a recently released study by researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety set out to examine the impact that the increase in speed limits has had on motor vehicle accident fatality rates in 41 states over the last two decades.

Specifically, it examined the number of fatalities per billion miles traveled by type of roadway and state, taking a host of factors into account and making the following shocking discoveries:

  • The speed limit increases in these 41 states are responsible for as many as 33,000 deaths
  • For every 5 mph increase in the speed limit, there was a corresponding 4 percent increase in car accident fatalities

As shocking as this is, the IIHS theorizes that the number could actually be even higher given that increases in speed limits on urban freeways and highways that fell below the maximum posted speed limit (i.e., 75 mph on rural highways versus 70 mph on the freeway) weren’t included in the study.

This report naturally raises the question as to whether it’s time to perhaps reconsider the institution of a national speed limit or whether the individual state’s need to take a closer look at their own traffic laws.

What are your thoughts?