A link exists between increased speed limits and road fatalities, according to a new study. This research shines a light on what happens when communities increase their maximum speed limits. 

According to Transport Topics, cities and towns could have saved an estimated 36,000 lives over the past 25 years, had they not increased their maximum speed limits. By raising a maximum speed limit by even 5 mph, communities see an average 8.5% increase in road deaths on their major highways and a 2.8% fatality increase on their smaller streets as a result. 

Why speed limits fluctuate 

Back in 1974, the federal government mandated that the maximum speed limit in each state could not exceed 55 mph. They intended this move to help preserve fuel. The mandate changed in 1987, though, allowing communities to increase their maximum speed limits to 65 mph if they wished. By 1995, states had the ability to set their own maximum speed limits. As a result, some now allow motorists to travel their highways at speeds as fast as 85 mph. 

Why increased speed limits fail to save much time 

While many in favor of increasing speed limits argue that doing so gets citizens where they need to go faster, the recent study results also refute this assertion. Instead, research indicates that higher speed limits save motorists only negligible amounts of time. 

If motorists were to travel at 70 mph rather than 65 mph for a 100-mile trip, they would only arrive at their destination about six minutes sooner. Similarly, increasing a 75-mph travel speed to 80 mph for a 100-mile journey would only save about five minutes. 

Higher speed limits endanger the public even when all motorists abide by them. This rarely happens, however, with many people believing it is acceptable to travel over the speed limit, regardless of what it might be.