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Speeding on Local Roads is an Underappreciated Concern, According to the NTSB

In a report announced this summer, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that, while car wrecks as a whole are on the decline in the United States, speeding remains one of the major causes of them. In fact, holding on as the cause of nearly a third of all car wrecks, speeding is responsible for a number of injuries and deaths comparable to drunk driving. They also noted that local roads actually see a higher percentage of speeding-related accidents than high-speed roads such as highways, with three times as many fatalitiesKansas local roads

The report, released July 25, found not only that speeding was a highly common cause of accidents, but that it remains an underappreciated one. Jim Ritter, NTSB Director of Research and Engineering, is quoted in the announcement as stating, “Substantial reductions in highway crashes cannot be achieved without a renewed emphasis on the impact of speeding...Lowering speeding-related highway deaths requires more effective use of countermeasures to prevent these crashes.” The study noted that a full 30% of speeding accidents happened on local roads, higher than the 26% occurring on interstates and freeways. Roads of all types in rural areas claimed 54% of all accidents in the study.

According to a Kansas Department of Transportation factbook, there were 4,472 speeding-related accidents in our state last year, resulting in 71 deaths and 1,941 injuries. These numbers are the lowest in a decade, and we’re glad to see that trend continue, but they’re still far too high. To that end, the NTSB has made a series of recommendations to law enforcement and travel agencies across the nation.

Solutions Offered by the NTSB

One of these recommended changes of special concern for us is a shift away from using the 85th Percentile system as a method of determining speed limits on local roads, which is the system Kansas currently uses. This system, common across the nation, is founded on the belief that the speed at which 85% of traffic flows under normal circumstances is a safe and reasonable legal limit. The NTSB study challenges this belief, however, by claiming that its safety lacks evidence to support the claim. The study also says that the 85th Percentile system fails to consider other factors such as non-car road uses like bicycles and pedestrians, which are of special concern on local roads – and who are far more likely to be seriously injured in the event of a speeding-related crash. Another recommendation is a call for states which do not currently have laws regarding automated speed enforcement systems, including Kansas, to authorize their use by state and local law enforcement.

The study also recommends increasing public education on speeding and its dangers. As our lawmakers consider this and other recommendations, we encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for understanding and practicing safe driving practices, and we will continue to be available to help victims of this underappreciated danger.

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