Indy Star: Let's not rush to lower speed limits

| Friday, July 28, 2006

After publishing a special report stating that its own investigative number-crunching revealed more traffic fatalities in the wake of higher speeds, the Indianapolis Star has followed up with an editorial position that the state should not be quick to slow traffic down.

Earlier this week, the Star reported traffic fatalities and speeding tickets have increased in the year since Indiana state lawmakers approved boosting the speed limit for cars and trucks on six interstates, based on the newspaper’s analysis. The Star examined crash data for Interstates 64, 65, 69, 70, 74 and 80/90. Speeding ticket data is specific to zones with 70 mph limits for cars and 65 mph limits for trucks.

According to the Star’s breakdown of data, traffic fatalities have jumped 40 percent along those sections of the highway and citations for speeding have increased 10 percent. The report added that overall deaths on Indiana roads dipped slightly.

On Wednesday, July 26, the Star’s editorial of the day stated the newspaper’s position that “lawmakers should not rush to lower speed limits without further study of crash data.” The editorial hurried to point out that “highway safety is a more complex issue than merely measuring speed.”

The Star stated: “Although a 40 percent increase in fatalities on Indiana interstates in the past year is disturbing and worth further investigation, it should not lead to a rush to roll back speed limits.”

The editorial commented that “if speed were the only factor, there also should have been a significant increase in the number of crashes on interstates with 70-mph limits over the past 12 months. But there wasn’t.”

And beyond the headlines and damning numbers, the editorial pointed out that an increase in speed limits on both interstates and state highways “should have resulted in an overall increase in crashes and fatalities. But wrecks on all Indiana roads dropped from 209,530 to 177,803; overall fatalities decreased from 897 to 836 in the year since speed limits were raised.”

In conclusion, the Star’s editorial sensibly stated that the “increase in fatalities on interstates – from 65 the year before the speed-limit increase to 91 the year after – could be a statistical fluke, a quirk in the nature of the crashes or a result of different weather conditions.”

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