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Could lowering the speed limit make Seattle safer?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2023 | Car Accidents |

Anyone who has driven, walked, or ridden a bicycle or motorcycle in Seattle metro area knows how perilous the streets can be. Cars traveling at high speeds pose a particular hazard when they cause crashes. Many residents and officials have advocated for lowering the speed limit in the hopes that it will prevent injuries – and new data may support this argument.

New data around speed limits and injuries

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently conducted a study in which it examined the rate of injuries caused by car accidents in Seattle. According to its research, injury-causing accidents decreased by 20% on streets with reduced speed limits. This is likely due to:

  1. More time for drivers to brake or react.
  2. Less force in a crash.

By contrast, streets that did not have reduced speed limits did not see statistically significant reductions of injuries. The study also examined three Washington cities that did not reduce their speed limits and found that the rate of crash injuries increased.

Will Washington reduce speed limits again?

The IIHS’s study is groundbreaking, one of the first of its kind to examine the link between injuries and speed limits in urban areas. A similar study in Boston also found a substantial decrease in traffic-related injuries in areas with lower speed limits. The last time the City of Seattle passed sweeping speed limit reductions was 2016, when it lowered the default limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph and lowered the limit in residential areas from 25 mph to 20 mph.

The data make it clear that reducing speed limits makes Seattle’s roads significantly safer for everyone. Whether the rest of Washington gets up to speed is still uncertain. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who support initiatives to lower speed limits can voice their opinions to their local and state representatives.