Will more catastrophic accidents follow Illinois speed limit increases?

Higher speed limits are coming to roads near Chicago, which may raise the risk of crashes and accidents that cause serious injuries.

Last year, Illinois lawmakers passed two bills permitting higher speed limits on major roads near Chicago. According to The Chicago Tribune, the maximum tollway speed limit was increased to 70 mph, and maximum truck speed limit near Cook County was raised to 60 mph. Unfortunately, research suggests that, as these higher speed limits are implemented, the number of severe car crashes may increase.

Potentially dangerous changes

These speed limit increases have drawn safety concerns from local authorities. Gov. Pat Quinn initially tried to veto both bills, citing the potential adverse effects on the safety of motorists and road workers. According to The Quad-City Times, the Illinois State Police and Department of Transportation both opposed the tollway speed limit increases, which may affect 300 miles of road.

The truck speed limit increases became effective in early 2015, but the tollway speed limit changes didn't, as safety studies were deemed necessary. According to The Chicago Sun-Times, based on one study, a tollway committee recently suggested raising speed limits from 55 mph to either 60 mph or 65 mph. This change would apply to portions of the Veterans Memorial, Tri-State and Reagan Memorial tollways.

These slightly lower speed limits might offer a safer alternative to a new limit of 70 mph. The reduced limits account for various potential traffic hazards, including road conditions, merge points and known high-volume crash spots. Still, even this reduced speed limit change may leave motorists in significant danger.

Impact on accidents

Although speed limit increases of 5 to 10 mph might seem trivial, they may have huge effects, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Crash energy, which determines the extent of damage and injury that occur in an accident, increases with speed. However, it rises at a disproportionate rate; for instance, a 50 percent increase in impact speed raises crash energy 125 percent. Therefore, worse outcomes are significantly more likely at higher speeds.

Vehicles that are traveling faster may also have a lower likelihood of evading accidents. Speed can have all of the following negative performance effects on a vehicle or driver:

  • It increases the difficulty of steering around an obstacle.
  • It reduces a driver's effective response time, since the vehicle covers more distance during that fixed interval.
  • It increases the total distance that the vehicle needs to stop.

Consequently, the ongoing speed limit changes in Illinois could result in more accidents and more crashes that cause serious injuries.

When victims have recourse

Drivers who observe the legal speed limit but travel at speeds that are reckless, given traffic and road conditions, may still be considered liable if they cause accidents. After securing medical treatment, victims of these accidents may want to discuss their legal options with a car accident attorney.

Keywords: car, auto, accident, injury