PHILADEPHIA PA. - Speeding tickets are a multi-billion dollar annual business for state governments, municipalities, and auto insurers. Politicians seeking to justify so many citations frequently turn to statistics that show that "speeding" is among the most common causes of traffic collisions in the United States. Not true.

Out of 2.7 million traffic accidents recorded in twenty-five states over a year, only 1.6 percent were caused by drivers who exceeded the posted speed limit. The figures analyze annual state reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Since there is no speeding crisis, why the push to municipal arm police with RADAR? For the money.

Four commonly held but inaccurate statements about speed limits:

  • Lowering a posted speed limit will slow down traffic.
  • Lowering a posted speed limit will increase safety and decrease the number of crashes.
  • Raising the posted speed limit increases traffic speed.
  • Drivers will always travel at 5 mph over the posted speed limit.

There is no guarantee that a speed limit will have any effect on driving behaviors. The fact is, when driving, most motorists choose a speed at which they personally feel both comfortable and safe.

A speed limit sign should not dictate the speed. It should reflect how drivers are actually behaving on the road. The speed at which 85 percent of motorists travel is called "prevailing speed." Prevailing speed is the primary consideration when setting speed limits. Why? Because it is the safest speed with the most compliance.

In Pennsylvania, posted speed limits are 8 to 16 mph below the prevailing speed 90% of the time (FHwA data), making almost everybody a "speeder." Municipal police will use RADAR for ticketing these people who are doing nothing harmful and endangering no one.

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