Excessive Speed Is a Factor In 33% All Fatal Crashes

The economic cost to US society of speeding-related crashes is estimated at $27.7 billion per year.

In 1998, nearly 42,000 people were killed in traffic crashes and almost 3.2 million more were injured, at a cost of over $150 billion. Speed – defined as exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions – is a factor in nearly one third of all fatal crashes. Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that when speed limits were raised by many states in 1996, travel speeds increased and motor vehicle fatalities went up significantly on Interstate highways in those states.

Speed reduces the amount of available time needed to avoid a crash, increases the likelihood of crashing and increases the severity of a crash once it occurs. The public needs to be made more aware of the dangers of speeding. If we are to combat this dangerous, life-threatening behavior, we must devote increased resources to better enforcement, including more law enforcement officers to patrol the highways, and we must support technological advances, such as video cameras, to target aggressive, speeding drivers.


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  • Speed was a factor in 30 percent (12,477) of all traffic fatalities in 1998, second only to alcohol (39 percent) as a cause of fatal crashes.
  • (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, 1999)
  • In 1998, 40,000 people were critically injured in speeding-related crashes, 72,000 were moderately injured and 599,000 received minor injuries. (NHTSA, 1999)
  • The economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is estimated at $27.7 billion per year. (NHTSA, 1999)
  • Crash forces on impact double with every 10 mile per hour increase in speed above 50 miles per hour. As crash forces increase, so does one�s chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash. (NHTSA, 1995)
  • Young drivers (under 30 years old) are more likely to speed than other drivers. Of all drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are most likely to speed. The relative proportion of speeding-related fatal crashes decreases with increasing driver age. (NHTSA, 1999)
  • Alcohol involvement and speeding often go hand-in-hand. In 1998, 43 percent of drivers with a 0.10 BAC or higher who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 14 percent of the sober (0.00 BAC) drivers in fatal crashes. (NHTSA, 1999)



  • Travel speeds increased on Interstate highways in the states that raised their speed limits after Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit in 1995. Increased travel speeds historically have led to increased traffic fatalities. (IIHS, 1999)
  • In the 24 states that raised their speed limits in late 1995 and in 1996, fatalities on Interstate highways increased 15 percent. Deaths on other roadways where speed limits were not raised were unchanged. (IIHS, 1998)
  • The increased fatalities and fatality rates on Interstates where speed limits were raised translates to approximately 450-500 additional deaths a year on Interstate highways and freeways. (IIHS, 1998)
  • As of October 1999, 28 states have raised speed limits to 70 MPH or higher on portions of their roads and highways. (IIHS, 1999)
  • In a public opinion poll conducted by Louis Harris for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in May 1996, 64 percent of those polled said they were concerned that higher speed limits would contribute to even more aggressive driving. Sixty-six percent were concerned that highway crashes would rise again, and 52 percent were concerned that they will feel unsafe on the highways because drivers would go “much faster,” exceeding even the posted limits.


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