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Have higher speed limits made roads less safe?

One of the basic rules we learn when we start driving as a teenager is to obey the speed limit. Maintaining a safe speed is one of the easiest things a driver can do to avoid accidents -- and a traffic ticket.

However, people still speed. And it's not just going over the legal limit that puts them at risk of getting in a crash. Increasing speed limits across the country mean that people may not get a ticket for going over the limit, but they could still get into an accident when they are driving dangerously fast.

Higher speeds, more fatalities

According to a recent report, 36,760 more people died in accidents between 1993 and 2017 than expected. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says these "additional" deaths stem from increasing speed limits across the country.

Until 1995, there was a federal speed limit law in place that kept speed limits across the country set at 55 miles per hour (or 65 mph in some cases). Since the federal limit was abolished in 1995, states have established their own speed limits. Some states keep limits at 55; others have increased them to 65, 70 or even 85 mph.

Researchers say that this increase is the reason for thousands of deaths per year.

Preventing speed-related crashes

Slowing down is perhaps the easiest thing a driver can do to avoid an accident. Even if the speed limit is 70 mph, it may not be safe to drive this fast.

In fact, the limit represents the maximum speed a person can legally drive in ideal conditions. Factors like weather, congestion and road conditions can make driving the maximum speed unsafe. People also see the speed limit as a suggestion, regularly driving over the limit.

Unfortunately, too many drivers are unwilling to ease off the gas pedal. Because of this, they are putting their lives and the lives of the people around them in danger.

Because it is unlikely that Illinois or other states will lower their speed limits, it is up to individual drivers to protect themselves. This means slowing down when necessary and wearing a seat belt every time they get in the car. It can also mean holding a reckless, speeding driver accountable should he or she cause a serious accident.

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