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Higher speed limits in Illinois could increase crash risks

The Illinois General Assembly has recently enacted and changed laws that may affect you. One measure raises the maximum speed on some interstate highways to 70 miles per hour. In addition, large trucks will now be permitted to travel as fast as 60 miles per hour on some highways in the Chicago area – including in Kane County.

Transportation officials say the changes will take some time to roll out, noting that some of the changes may not go into effect until 2016. First, IDOT and the Illinois Toll Highway Authority must conduct traffic engineering studies to gather data on current traffic speeds, crash rates and other factors that could affect the implementation of the new speed limits.

Speed affects crash frequency and severity

Traveling at higher speeds tends to increase both the risk and severity of traffic accidents. One reason for this is that the faster a vehicle is traveling, the farther it travels during reaction and response time – that is the time it takes a driver to react to a hazard or changing circumstance, such as a deer in the road or a sudden change in traffic speeds.

Speeding is especially dangerous for drivers who are distracted by texting or other activities, since their reaction times are already slowed. Driving at high speeds can also make it more difficult for a driver to navigate safely around obstacles in the road, thereby increasing the likelihood that he or she will lose control or collide with another vehicle.

While driving at higher speeds increases the likelihood that a crash will occur, it also raises the risk that injuries resulting from a crash will be severe or fatal. Collisions that occur at higher speeds involve greater forces of impact, thereby increasing the potential for serious bodily harm to the vehicles’ occupants.

Relative speed also matters

Although federal crash data show that higher speed limits typically correlate with higher rates of traffic fatalities, the relationship between speed and traffic accidents does not depend entirely on the speed of any individual vehicle; another factor is how fast each vehicle is traveling in relation to others around it.

According to data cited by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the chance of being involved in a collision increases for drivers whose speeds vary substantially from the overall average traffic speed on the roadway – whether above or below. Thus, while driving at slower speeds is generally safer, this is not necessarily true when nearby traffic is moving at faster speeds.

Irresponsible drivers can be held liable

Drivers who exceed posted speed limits or drive too fast for weather or road conditions risk not only their own safety but also the safety and wellbeing of others on the road.

If you or a family member has been seriously hurt in a crash involving a speeding driver in Illinois, you should contact the personal injury lawyers at Konicek & Dillon, P.C., to learn about your legal rights and options after a traffic accident.