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Wichita Drivers Need Better Protections from Speed Limit Laws

Kansas car accident attorneyEvery driver in Wichita is expected to obey speed limit laws. The question, however, is how are those laws set and are they doing enough to prevent motor vehicle accidents that could have serious or deadly consequences? Recently, FiveThirtyEight suggested that the laws are not as effective as they should be at preventing traffic deaths.


A personal injury lawyer knows that a small change in speed limits can make a big difference in car accidents and pedestrian accidents. While a pedestrian has a 90 percent chance of surviving a collision in which he's hit by a car going 23 miles an hour, his chances of survival drop down to 75 percent if the car that hits him is going 32 MPH. People inside of cars are also affected by speed limit changes.

Understanding the Impact of Speed Limit Laws

Between 1974 and 1995, a National Maximum Speed Law was in effect. This set a maximum limit on interstate highways. The limit was 55 miles an hour until 1987 and was then set at 65 MPH. In 1995, the law was repealed. States promptly raised their speed limits on highways. This led to a 3.2 percent rise in the number of people who lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents.

The consequences of this increase in deaths were significant. During a 10 year period of time, 12,545 people were killed who would not have died if the speed limits had not been increased.

Since the speed limits on roadways are literally a life and death issue, it might be natural to think that there are very detailed and comprehensive formulas used to set these limits. In most cases, there aren't.

A 1964 study established the way in which many speed limits are set. They are set based on how fast drivers tend to go on a road. Engineers will monitor the behavior of drivers and will then set the speed limit at the 85th percentile. This is the speed at or below which 85 percent of people naturally travel at and 15 people naturally travel above. When a new road is being designed, the new road is compared to existing roadways to determine what this 85th percentile speed should be.

Speed limits that are set this way are called rational speed limits. The belief is that people are only going to obey the speed limits if the limits feel natural and normal to them. The theory behind setting the speed limits this way also posits that people will naturally travel on the roads at a speed that feels safe for that particular street.

One problem is that when a speed limit is set at a certain level, people then tend to assume that they can travel safely at that speed. The speed limit becomes a de facto minimum speed, and a good number of people end up going faster than the posted limit.

Drivers need to be aware of how risky it is to travel above the speed limit or to travel faster on the roads than is safe for current conditions.

If you or a loved one has been injured in Wichita, contact Warner Law Offices. Call 866-584-1032 today.

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