Double-Nickel Doubletalk

June 22, 2005
Motor vehicle accident and fatality rates continue to fall, but not quite fast enough for the Feds, who still blame higher speed limits for highway deaths while nothing is done about lane discipline and unlicensed drivers.

The Governors Highway Safety Association sent out a "survey" to automotive journalists under the header, "Speeding a Serious Problem 10 Years After National Speed Limit Repeal" -- implying that traffic accidents and fatalities have actually increased since Congress repealed the 55-mph National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) law back in 1995.

In essence, the "speed kills" argument is being trotted out again by parties who'd like to see the 55-mph speed limit re-imposed -- for "safety's sake."

But the fact of the matter is that since the repeal of the NMSL in 1995, overall accident and fatality rates on U.S. highways have either remained the same or declined.

GHSA's Jonathan Adkins admitted: "The issue is more that speed fatalities haven't decreased in the last decade. Rather shocking considering all the advances with vehicle safety (i.e. airbags) and the fact that seat belt use has doubled since the early 90s."

But that, of course, is not what the "survey" or the press release implied at all. It wasn't titled, "Fatalities Haven't Decreased" -- or "Safety Advances Haven't Saved As Many Lives As Hoped."

Adkins may find it "rather shocking" that airbags and increased seatbelt use haven't saved more lives -- but that's got nothing to do with whether highway speeds of 65 or 70 or even 75 mph necessarily means "less safe." If it did, driving faster than 55 mph would automatically and always mean more traffic accidents, more people being killed in cars. But people today routinely drive at speeds that, prior to 1995, put them in peril of very expensive tickets for "speeding" -- with no more risk of being involved in an accident than was the case prior to the 1995 repeal of the NMSL.

That's the facts -- as distinct from the political agit-prop of the Governors Highway Safety Association.--Eric Peters

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