Long-term effects of repealing the national maximum speed limit in the United States

Am J Public Health. 2009 Sep;99(9):1626-31. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.153726. Epub 2009 Jul 16.


Objectives: We examined the long-term effects of the 1995 repeal of federal speed limit controls on road fatalities and injuries in fatal crashes.

Methods: We used a Poisson mixed-regression model to assess changes in the number of fatalities and injuries in fatal crashes between 1995 and 2005 on rural interstates, where all US states have raised speed limits since the repeal, as well as on urban interstates and noninterstate roads, where many states have raised speed limits.

Results: We found a 3.2% increase in road fatalities attributable to the raised speed limits on all road types in the United States. The highest increases were on rural interstates (9.1%) and urban interstates (4.0%). We estimated that 12 545 deaths (95% confidence interval [CI] = 8739, 16 352) and 36 583 injuries in fatal crashes (95% CI = 29 322, 43 844) were attributable to increases in speed limits across the United States.

Conclusions: Reduced speed limits and improved enforcement with speed camera networks could immediately reduce speeds and save lives, in addition to reducing gas consumption, cutting emissions of air pollutants, saving valuable years of productivity, and reducing the cost of motor vehicle crashes.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Accidents, Traffic / trends
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Government Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Public Policy
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Transportation / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology