Lower Speed Limits Could Reduce Accident Rates

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Speed is dangerous and is cited as a contributing factor in a considerable number of truck accidents. As the number of vehicles traveling America’s roads continues to increase, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering a proposal that would limit the top speed of commercial motor vehicles.

The DOT’s proposal would lower the speed limit to 60 MPH for commercial motor vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds. The rule would apply to semi-trucks, buses, and other large vehicles. DOT”s internal estimates show that this proposed rule change could save up to 500 lives per year.

The proposal has support from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These agencies all agree that reducing the speed limit would save lives, however, they disagree as to what the speed limit should be, and how many lives might be saved. Ultimately, it will be up to the DOT to set the final rule later this year. It is expected the the rule change will be met with considerable resistance from the trucking industry as the proposal could cost the industry upwards of $1.5 billion per year to comply.

Moreover, there are concerns that if commercial trucks are driving too slow, they will pose an even greater risk to motorists who could be traveling 10, 15, even 20 MPH faster at legal highway speeds. This could increase the number of semi-trucks that are rear-ended by motorists traveling at considerably higher rates of speed. In fact, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association has stated that the significant differentials in speed would increase the possibility of crashes several fold.

Truck wreck lawyers also point out that many trucks traveling down the road are doing so on tires that aren’t designed to handle speeds in excess of 75 MPH. This means that in states where the speed limit is greater than 75 MPH, these vehicles are inherently unstable and dangerous even though they are driving within the legal speed parameters. Tennessee is not one of these states as the maximum speed on state highways is 70 MPH.

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposals being considered by the Department of Transportation. Until the DOT rules on the potential changes, motorists and semi-truck drivers will have to proceed with caution. That means watching their speed and paying close attention to road conditions so that they don’t become one of the thousands of fatal truck accidents that occur every year.