The first significant reduction in three decades in the number of highway deaths was noted in this country when the 55 miles per hour (mph) national speed limit became law in 1973. Where this speed limit is still in force, the reduction in automobile deaths and injuries has been maintained.
In 1987, however, Congress passed the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act. One of the provisions of this act was to allow states to raise the speed limit on most rural interstate highways to 65 mph. Because the average highway speed routinely exceeds the prevailing legal limit by at least several miles per hour, the higher speed limit has markedly increased the proportion of traffic traveling at very high speeds. In 1988, 3 times as many vehicles were exceeding 70 mph and 11 times as many vehicles were traveling at speeds greater than 80 mph as in 1986 when the 55 mph speed limit prevailed. These higher speeds have been accompanied by appreciable increases in automobile crash deaths and injuries. The relationship of automobile mortality and morbidity to the speed limit is well documented. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses a return to the national maximum speed limit of 55 mph as an effective method of lowering the incidence of automobile deaths and injuries. Pediatricians should make every effort to support this form of injury prevention by personal example, education of pediatric patients and their parents, and legislative advocacy.
- Copyright © 1991 by the American Academy of Pediatrics