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Will Increased Speed Limit Lead To More Accidents?

The speed limit on rural interstates in Illinois will be raised to 70 miles per hour next year. Critics of the change suggest that increased speed will inevitably lead to an increase in car accidents. A representative of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that increased speed limits lead to people driving faster, which means that "more people will die on the roads as a result." The Illinois Department of Transportation joined state police in opposing the increase.

The speed limits may not be rising on all Illinois interstates. The six counties in the Chicago region and the two counties near St. Louis have the authority to set lower speed limits in their areas. In addition, the Illinois Tollway may keep the 65 mph limit in some sections. Outside of these areas, however, the speed limits will be 70 mph by next year.

Ohio recently made a similar change to its speed limits. In joining them, Illinois became the 37th state to move speed limits to 70 or higher. It has been nearly 20 years since the national speed limit was repealed, giving states the right to set their limits higher than 55 mph. The states approving higher speed limits have often cited wider highways and vehicles built to operate at faster speeds in making the change. In addition, some have cited the general decrease in traffic fatalities per mile driven the country has experienced over the past two decades.

The increase did come with one caveat: the charge of excessive speeding will be re-defined as driving 26 mph or more over the limit. The threshold is currently 31 mph over the limit.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Quinn signs 70 mph speed limit law for Illinois," by Monique Garcia and Matt Walberg, 20 August 2013

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