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Our St. Louis accident lawyers report how higher speed limits increase the risk of fatal car accidents.

Missouri is among the states where lawmakers have introduced legislation this year to raise the posted speed limits. Higher speed limits may get some motorists to their destinations a little more quickly, but unfortunately higher speeds also lead to more serious and fatal traffic accidents.

Rep. Mike Kelley, a lawmaker from rural southwest Missouri, filed a bill this session to increase the speed limit on rural multi-lane highways from 70 to 75 miles per hour, according to CBS St. Louis report.

Kelley said that Missouri drivers get frustrated with the posted limits because they consider them too low. Instead of driving at the posted speed limit, motorists are more likely to adopt a safe speed, based on the weather, traffic and driving conditions, he said.

Kelley contends constant speeds, not low speeds, are the key to avoiding crashes on the state’s roadways. He further says the quality of Missouri’s roads, especially with improvements made to Interstates 44 and 49, make them capable of handling higher speeds.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, research shows that higher speed limits lead to more fatal traffic accidents. Higher speeds increase the likelihood of a crash because they expand the stopping distance needed and reduce drivers’ reaction time. Collisions also become more deadly because crash energy increases exponentially as speeds increase.

Missouri Transportation Department’s chief engineer, Ed Hassinger, told a legislative committee that raising the speed limit could increase danger on state roads. Hassinger said the state of Kansas saw its fatalities increase 50 percent after it raised the speed limit to 75.

Hassinger said he believes the move to raise speed limits has less to do with safety and more to do with convenience, though he pointed out many of the roads where it could jump to 75 mph are often congested and loaded with big-truck traffic.

He contended when people drive faster crashes are going to be more serious, causing more fatalities and debilitating injuries.

Six States Consider Higher Speed Limits in 2015

Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, says many lawmakers across the nation are taking the easy route of pleasing motorists instead of thinking about the consequences of raising speed limits, according to a pewtrusts.org article.

In 2014, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Utah and Wyoming raised speed limits, while about a dozen other states turned down similar measures.

This year, besides Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin have debated legislation to raise the speed limit to 75 mph. Meanwhile, South Dakota joined Utah, Wyoming and Idaho in pushing its limit to 80 mph. Texas law allows up to 85.

Adkins said the nation is making great strides in reducing drunk driving while increasing the number of people wearing seat belts. The number of traffic deaths has fallen about 25 percent over the last decade, but the nation is making little progress in cutting the number of speed-related deaths, Adkins says.

Furthermore, motorists typically drive 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit. If limits are raised to 75, that means more people are likely to drive 80 to 85 mph, and car crashes at those speeds can do serious damage.

More than 300 people were killed in speed-related traffic accidents in Missouri in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Legislators would do better to place more emphasis on safety measures such as stricter distracted driving laws and seat-belt requirements than allowing motorists to drive at higher speeds on Missouri’s highways.

As car accident attorneys who represent people harmed in traffic accidents caused by other drivers disregard for safety, we understand the harm that speeding drivers cause. We want to make our communities safer places to live and raise families.

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