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IIHS: Michigan's higher speed limits will kill people

Tomorrow, the Michigan legislature will hold hearings on bills that seek to change the state's no-fault insurance policies.
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A single vehicle crash

Michigan has a new law directing the Michigan Department of Transportation to increase speed limits to 75 miles an hour on up to 600 miles of rural highways in the state.

Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says there's decades of research proving that more people will die as a result.

For every five miles' increase in the speed limit on interstates and highways, says Rader, fatal crashes increase 8%.

He says Michigan is not alone; many other states are also raising speed limits.  He says very high speeds cancel out the life-saving features on cars like seat belts and front air bags.

"In 2013 alone, speed limit increases resulted in about 1900 additional deaths," says Rader.  "That would essentially cancel out the number of lives saved that year from front air bags."

Safety groups, medical groups, and AAA Michigan opposed the Michigan speed limit increase.

State Representative Brad Jacobsen says people are already traveling faster than the current 70 mile-an-hour limit.

“We’re already going 75 miles an hour,” he says. “We’ve got safer cars than we ever have. Doesn’t it make sense? People drive the speed they feel safe on the road. Our roads are designed for 75 miles an hour.”

Rader says the roads may be designed for such a high speed, but car safety features aren't.  

He says crash tests are conducted at 40 miles an hour for a reason.  That's about the highest speed at which seat belts and air bags can be effective at preventing serious injury.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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