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Thursday 19 October 2017
Letters to the Editor

Increase the speed limit? Not so fast!

THE EDITOR: Globally, road accidents account for 1.25 million deaths, per year (WHO, 2015). Automobile accidents also account for 20 million to 50 million injuries worldwide (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). In fact, the risk of dying or being injured in an automobile accident is significantly higher than dying in a plane crash. Considering this, what factors were taken into account to warrant an increase in the speed limit, locally?

Have we considered our children?

Cars and mini-buses that are contracted by parents, etc to safely transport their children to and from school are often seen transporting children who are not wearing any seatbelts. It is no secret that many of them are also over the allowable limit of persons per seat. Would the higher limits be applicable to them as well?

What about the age range of the driver?

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-19-year-olds”. Moreover, “teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations”. The figure is more startling according to the WHO which estimates that globally, “road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years”. Do we really want them driving at 100 km/h or higher?

Are drivers still distracted?

Distracted driving coupled with speeding is an even deadlier combination. A driver is still distracted even when utilising a hands-free device; such a driver is “four times more likely” to be involved in a collision.

What about the newly adopted United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

If the current trend of road fatalities is not lowered, it is estimated that road deaths will be the seventh leading cause of deaths worldwide (WHO, 2015). To curb this, countries have set out to reduce the number of road deaths and road injuries by 50 per cent on or before the year 2020. The WHO has called on governments, including ours, to support this goal. Increasing the speed limit sets us back and prevents us from achieving this goal.

Are cars really safer?

Two well-known independent bodies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), conduct various crash tests “under controlled conditions”. These “conditions” include collisions at rates of 35 mph (56 km/h) and 40 mph (64 km/h) respectively. Why are the tests conducted at such low speeds even though most of real-world collisions occur at significantly higher speeds? The truth is that if all crash tests were conducted at much higher rates, all cars would fail.

The higher the speed limit, the lower the reaction time and ability to stop

Vehicles travelling at higher rates of speed are more likely to be involved in collisions. The response time is diminished and so too is the ability to avoid the collision altogether. For every increase of speed by 1 km/h, there is a corresponding increase in the likelihood of a collision by three per cent (WHO, 2017). In other words, a 20 km/h increase in speed (from 80 km/h to 100 km/h) results in a 60 per cent increase in the likelihood of being involved in a collision. For road fatalities, that number increases by 4-5% for every increase in speed by 1 km/h. This means that the likelihood of a road fatality at the speed of 100 km/h increases by 80-100%. Are we prepared to lose more of our nation’s children, teens and adults to road deaths?

Leandra Hernandez via e-mail


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