Road deaths up since Iowa increased rural Interstate speed limit

State records show that more motorists have died on Iowa’s rural Interstate highways since the speed limit was increased to 70 mph seven years ago, according to The Des Moines Register.  The paper reports a total of 250 people were killed on the rural Interstate system between July 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2011 compared to 227 fatalities for the 6½ years prior to the speed limit increase.

Rural Interstate fatalities are up by 10% although overall Iowa traffic deaths have dropped by 6% when compared to the seven years prior to 2005. Overall safety statistics saw statewide traffic deaths drop last year to the lowest level since World War II, according to the report.

The increase in Iowa’s rural Interstate traffic deaths is consistent with what has happened in other states where speed limits increased, according to Russ Rader, senior vice president of the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Among Iowa’s neighboring states, only Illinois and Wisconsin still limit drivers to 65 mph on rural interstates, and some states allow 75 mph speeds.

“The bottom line is that when speed limits go up, deaths go up. When speed limits go down, deaths go down,” Rader said.

“Any time you raise speeds, an accident has a greater risk for injury and death. The other thing that we see quite often on the interstates is that people are just following too closely, and at higher speeds that just makes the situation that much worse,” Col. Patrick Hoye, chief of the Iowa State Patrol said.

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