Crashes that occur at high speeds are not the only ones that lead to serious injury and death. Even relatively small increases in speed can prove dangerous and even fatal, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Along with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Humanetics, researchers used crash tests to evaluate the impact of speed on motor vehicle accidents.
Crash Dummies Outfitted with Sensors
To fully and accurately measure the impact of speed on crashes, the research team attached hundreds of sensors to crash dummies. The dummies were placed in three 2010 Honda CR-V EX crossovers, which represent the average age of a typical vehicle. In addition, the vehicles performed well in safety tests.
As the speed increased from 40 to 50 to 56 miles per hour (mph), the vehicles experienced more structural damage and the entire bodies of the dummies sustained greater force.
For instance, at 40 mph, there was little damage to the driver’s space. When the speed increased to 50 mph, there was obvious damage to the driver’s door, the dashboard, and foot area of the vehicle. At 56 mph, the inside of the car was seriously damaged and the dummies’ sensors registered serious neck injuries and fractures of the lower leg.
At both 50 and 56 mph, the steering wheel moved and resulted in the dummy’s head penetrating the inflated airbag. This caused the face to smash into the steering wheel. Sensors reported the likelihood of facial fractures and severe brain injury.
The results of the study are certainly worrisome given that they occurred at relatively modest speeds. Neck injuries, brain injuries, and broken bones can all be disabling injuries that turn victims’ lives upside down in the blink of an eye.
States Increasing Speed Limits Nationwide
States are increasingly raising speed limits, especially on highways. Michigan is among 41 states that permit speeds above 70 mph on some highways. Eight states allow speeds of 80 or more on selected roadways.
The IIHS conducted a study in 2019 that showed rising speed limits have cost nearly 37,000 lives over the past 25 years. For this reason, safety advocates call for enforcing current speed limits instead of increasing them.
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