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GHSA News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2008

Contact: Jonathan Adkins
(202)789-0942, jadkins@ghsa.org

Slow Down! Following Speed Limits Good for Safety and Your Wallet

Informal Survey Shows Drivers Aren’t Getting the Message

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As millions of Americans take to the roadways for the busy Memorial Day Weekend and summer driving season, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reminds drivers that slowing down will not only reduce the amount of money they have to spend on gas, but also could save their life.

According to the Department of Energy, aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town. The agency also estimates that, as a rule of thumb, drivers can assume that each 5 mph they drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

Despite the benefits of slowing down, the public has not yet gotten the message. According to an informal GHSA survey1 of state highway safety agencies, only Wisconsin reports a noticeable trend of reduced speeds as a result of high gas prices.  Wisconsin officials report that while traffic volume is down slightly, speeds are also down, directly impacting both the frequency and seriousness of crashes across the entire state.  State troopers report speeds along the freeways are moderating especially with commercial vehicles, many of which have slowed to travel at or even below the speed limit. A handful of other states note the reduced speed of commercial vehicles, likely resulting from more trucking companies setting policies that require their drivers to stay below a set speed, such as 67 mph.

In addition to helping fight the cost of record-high gas prices, slowing down also increases the likelihood of surviving a crash. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a high-speed crash, a passenger vehicle is subjected to forces so severe that the vehicle structure cannot withstand the impact of the crash and maintain survival space in the occupant compartment.

Further evidence comes from a 2005 study that showed even a small reduction in speed can have a big impact on lives saved. In the report, published in the Transportation Research Record, author Rune Elvik found that a 1 percent decrease in travel speed reduces injury crashes by about 2 percent, serious injury crashes by about 3 percent and fatal crashes by about 4 percent. These reductions are critically needed as speeding remains a serious highway safety problem—nearly 13,500 people died in speed-related crashes in 2006.

According to GHSA Chairman Christopher J. Murphy, “Nationally, GHSA members report that we are not seeing any noticeable decreases in travel speeds by passenger vehicles. However, given the extremely high gas prices and life-saving benefits of slowing down, we urge the public to ease off the accelerator.”

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For tips to improve gas mileage, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml or download AAA’s Gas Watcher’s Guide, www.aaanewsroom.net/Assets/Files/20078281615200.GasWatchersGuide2007.pdf pdf icon [314 KB, 6 pgs.].

For a list of current state speed limits, visit: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/speedlimit_laws.html.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org.

1 GHSA conducted an e-mail survey of state highway safety agencies May 7-9, 2008. States were asked if they were seeing any noticeable decrease in travel speeds by either passenger vehicles or commercial vehicles. If data didn't exist, the agency was asked its opinion based on observation by its staff and law enforcement personnel.