Maine Traffic Accidents & Risk of Higher Speed Limits

In recent weeks, a 21-year-old died after crashing into a tree in Frankfort. Around the same time, a 48-year-old New Harbor man was killed in a Damariscotta crash after losing control of the vehicle and veering off the road. There was also the crash in St. Francis, where a car rolled over and caught fire after the driver lost control.

Bangor car accident lawyers know that every one of these crashes had one thing in common: excessive speed. This isn’t especially surprising, considering the National Safety Council’s indicates high speeds or traveling too fast for conditions is a factor in one out of every three crashes in this country.

And yet, Maine’s Transportation Commissioner has announced the approval of a plan to raise the speed limit on large swaths of interstate highway system. Patches of Interstate 395, Interstate 95 and Interstate 295 are going to see a 5-mph boost in speed limits. Some motorists may already have noted the new signage along some of these areas.

In citing his reasoning, Commissioner David Bernhardt said the limits were raised after reviewing crash statistics, as well as factoring the speed at which many drivers were going already. He insisted that raising the speed limit will result in safer roadways because the posted speed will match the operating speed.

Of course, we see a clear alternative that was apparently not explored: Enhanced traffic law enforcement. Drivers will slow down if they know the laws requiring it are being actively enforced.

The NSC reports that every single year, some 13,000 lives are lost as a result of drivers traveling too fast. The ripple effect is devastating. Not only do the immediate victims suffer, but their families, their co-workers, their communities. It’s estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association that crashes caused by speed cost us $40 billion annually. For every minute that a driver “gains” by speeding, it costs the rest of us $76,000.

Raising speed limits may reduce the technical number of violators, but we have serious concerns regarding what impact it will have on our safety.

A similar measure is being weighed in Alabama, which would raise interstate speed limits there to 75 mph. In Florida, the same kind of law was proposed. However, the governor there pledged to veto it if it came to his desk after receiving fierce opposition from the law enforcement community, which coincidentally had just suffered the death of a trooper caused by a speeding driver.

In Maine, the legislature pushed forward with LD 654, An Act to Raise the Speed Limit on Interstate 295, in May of last year. While the bill initially only called for raising the speed limit on 295 to 75 mph, the measure was later amended to grant the commissioner of transportation the legal authority to increase speed limits statewide.

It was a disappointing turn following the 1970s-era reduction of speed limits from 70 mph down to 55 mph by Congress. Later, those limits were increased to 65 mph, and it wasn’t until 1995 that states were given authority to set their own limits.

Commercial truckers and other professional drivers say they are “horrified” by the new legislation, and are deeply dismayed about what this will mean for our motor vehicle fatality rate.

We share their concerns.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Higher speed limits Ok’d on select stretches of interstate highway system, May 28, 2014, By Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News


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