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Just because drivers can go faster doesn’t mean they should

Like other states, California has in the past several decades increased its speed limits. Whereas it used to be that the fastest any motorist could travel even on the interstate was 55 miles per hour, nowadays, Californians may be allowed to drive at 65 or even 70 miles per hour without exceeding the speed limit.

While some may see this as a good thing since it cuts down on travel time, these higher speed limits may actually be causing more traffic fatalities than would occur were speed limits a little lower.

One study estimates that in 2017 alone, almost 2,000 people died in car accidents precisely because of higher speed limits. On the whole, over the last quarter of a century, an additional 37,000 people across the country died thanks to the trend toward allowing drivers to go faster.

The same study concluded that even a modest increase in the posted speed limit, of 5 miles per hour, increases the rate of accident-related deaths. Specifically, on the highway, the fatality rate increases by 8 percent, and the rate increases by 3 percent among drivers who are traveling on other roads.

The statistics fly in the face of an argument many have used to justify higher speed limits. Proponents had argued that higher speed limits merely acknowledge that people like to drive at those higher speeds and fell comfortable doing so.

The reality, however, is that motorists will continue to exceed the posted speed limits, even if they are higher. In the meantime, it is becoming more and more apparent that drivers simply cannot handle their vehicles as safely at higher speeds as they can at lower speeds.

Residents of Los Angeles should remember that just because they can go a certain speed, it does not mean that they should. In fact, drivers have an obligation to slow down whenever conditions are less than ideal for driving. If they do not meet this responsibility and if they cause an accident as a result, then speeding drivers can be held legally accountable.