Editorial: Slow it down

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cars that better absorb impact, widespread seat belt use and a decades-long campaign to get drunk drivers off the road — and keep them off the road — have all helped save lives. Last year, 410 died in Minnesota car crashes; a big number to be sure, but far fewer than the 625 deaths reported in 2000. Yet like most other states, Minnesota continues to ignore an obvious safety opportunity: Speed.

The impact of collisions at higher speeds increases tremendously. Keeping control gets increasingly harder as vehicle speeds increase. Yet Minnesota has steadfastly refused to consider rolling back its 70 mph Interstate speeds and, indeed, has even permitted speeds as high as 65 mph on some non-Interstate highways.

No one wants to spend more time in the car than necessary, but if safety is truly a goal, then the role of speed needs to be part of the conversation.

Email newsletter signup

(It’s worth noting that slower highway speeds would also save a tremendous amount of fuel, since most cars and trucks operate far more efficiently at 60 mph than at 75 mph.)

It most likely defies any engineering analysis to definitively say what a 55 mph speed limit, coupled with today’s ultra-safe cars, would do to the fatality rate. If it saved another 200 lives would it be worth slowing down? Somehow, the world did not grind to a stop when speed limits were set at 55 mph during the 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps it’s time to look again at that idea.

— Austin Daily Herald, Jan. 7, 2011