The NTSB Wants Speed Limits and Speed Enforcement Tightened in the USA

Event Summary from the NTSB – July 25, 2017

[Comments from ADoNA are at the foot of the page]

Although speeding is one of the most common factors in motor vehicle crashes in the USA, it is an underappreciated problem, involved in about 10,000 highway fatalities each year according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Graph showing the Speed-Related Proportion of Road Deaths in the USA
The Speed-Related Proportion of Road Deaths in the USA. (In 2016, the overall number of deaths went back above 40,000 so the figures for 2007 may be closest to the current situation in 2017)

More than 112,500 people died in speeding-related US highway crashes from 2005-2014.  This is roughly equal to the number who died in alcohol-involved crashes over the same period. However, speeding gets far less attention.

In a speeding-related crash, there is a greater chance of being injured and the injuries are likely to be more severe or fatal.

The public is less aware of the risks of speeding compared with other risky driving behaviors. There is also less social stigma surrounding speeding than, for example, drinking and driving.

“Substantial reductions in highway crashes cannot be achieved without a renewed emphasis on the impact of speeding,” said NTSB Director of Research and Engineering Jim Ritter.  “Lowering speeding-related highway deaths requires more effective use of countermeasures to prevent these crashes.”

The NTSB publicly discussed a new safety study on passenger vehicle speeding on July 25, 2017. The study examines proven and emerging countermeasures that can reduce the impact of speeding, but that are currently underused or ineffectively used. It will focus not only on speed enforcement, but also on how speeding is defined and how speed limits are determined.

Additionally, the study will highlight the scope of speeding-related passenger vehicle crashes, illustrate the risks of speeding and address some common misconceptions about speeding.


Newspaper article on this topic from the SunHerald


Comments from Advanced Drivers of North America

An excellent synopsis from the NTSB’s Safety Study is here.

Among the Findings, number 4 reads:  “The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices [MUTCD] guidance for setting speed limits in speed zones is based on the 85th percentile speed, but there is not strong evidence that, within a given traffic flow, the 85th percentile speed equates to the speed with the lowest crash involvement rate on all road types.”   

ADoNA’s position on this is that using the 85th percentile has little validity given that in any society it cannot even remotely be presumed that enough drivers for this criterion are of sufficiently well informed, high  standards that their chosen speed in any way represents maximum safety.  From our work over many years, instructing in defensive driving and advanced driving in virtually all American states, it has become extremely clear that an incalculably high number of locations in the USA have speed limits which are too high for good safety.

Indeed, at ADoNA we are in agreement with all 20 of the findings.

One thing that we are sorry to see not mentioned in the document is the frequent use of speed and inappropriate driving, in television advertisements from automakers.  The example such commercials set to easily-influenced drivers is far from helpful.  A freedom of speech issue?  Yes, undoubtedly.  A behavioral factor in speed-related deaths?  Just as undoubtedly “Yes!”

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor – Advanced Drivers of North America 


Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

2 thoughts on “The NTSB Wants Speed Limits and Speed Enforcement Tightened in the USA”

  1. I have some anecdotal data on this matter. When I drive early in the day when the roads are less crowded, I am pretty consistently passed by 50 vehicles for every one I pass. I will admit to driving over the speed limit generally between 65 and 68 mph. Apparently this puts me in the slowest 2% of drivers. The odds of getting a speeding ticket at 68 mph on a California freeway is close to zero, above 75 mph and the odds start to move over 30%. Over 80 mph and now the odds strongly favor getting a ticket. I think also if another offense is committed, and you are speeding, also increases the odds. There appears to be a lot of attention recently on holding mobile devices, both by CHP and the municipal LEO’s.
    I think it takes a lot of discipline to hold to the legal limits when you are often chastised by other drivers for ‘going too slow’. As for law enforcement focusing on speeding, it should be accompanied by the information that the police are going after the killers of about 40,000 people a year. Every policemen has heard the complaint from the hapless motorist about going after real killers. Well they are!
    A slogan I remember from a long time ago: “Any fool can drive fast enough to be dangerous”. Apologies if this comes over as a rant.

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