In Ohio, speed limits go up—and with them crashes, injuries, and deaths

By Eric Sundquist
Like many other local, state, and federal transportation agencies, the Ohio DOT has a zero crash death goal. However, a 2013 law to raise speed limits on nearly 1,000 centerline miles is making that goal harder to reach, according to a recent study by the state Department of Public Safety.
That study compared crashes before and after implementation of the law, which raised speed limits to 70 mph (over the safety-based objections from the insurance industry). Some of the findings:

  • Fatal crashes on the 70 mph roads increased by 9 percent, while fatal crashes on all other roads decreased by 3 percent.
  • Injury crashes were up 23 percent on the 70 mph roads and down 1 percent elsewhere.
  • Property damage crashes increased by 25 percent on the 70 mph segments and 1 percent on other roads.
  • On the 70 mph roadways, speed-related crashes were up 16 percent, lane-change crashes were up 66 percent, rear-end crashes were up by 20 percent, and sideswipes were up by 23 percent.
  • Segment-by-segment, crashes were up on 78 percent of the 70 mph roadways (Figure 1).

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the State Patrol is targeting more resources to some of the areas where crashes have spiked, and an experiment to reduce the speed limit on some parts of the 70 mph roadways is under consideration.
Eric Sundquist is Director of SSTI.