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LETTER TO THE EDITOR - Boosting speed, and boosting death

Thursday, January 3, 2002

Some top Iowa legislators are eager to increase the speed limit and fatality rate. Tell Rep. Rants that Iowa doesn't have to follow the herd instinct and run off the cliff with the "heavy foot" states. There's more than enough proof that past speed limit increases immediately increased the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on those same highways, but the leadfoot lobby cleverly mixes those increased fatality rates on increased speed limit highways in with the "total" or "national rates," because the latter has declined in recent years because of better drunk driving laws, more air bags, and better teenage licensing.

The general public doesn't know what increased speed limits and increased speeds have done unless they "select out" and study the highways where speed limits were increased instead of just looking at "total numbers."

The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on Iowa "expressways" (non-interstate divided) was 0.39 during 1993-95 while at 55 miles per hour, but jumped to 2.33 within one year after 65 mph. A lesser increase happened on Iowa interstates immediately after 65 mph came onto them in 1987, and the "rates" on neither went back down to pre-65 mph levels. Get this information on Iowa "expressways" and "interstates" for the above years, instead of just looking at "total numbers." Maybe you can do this through your computer, or write to the Iowa DOT, or get them through the library.

We know the motoring public always "exceeds" the posted limits by however much law enforcement tolerance allows. Boosting the speed limit will boost the "actual speed" by the same amount and increase fatality rates within a short time.

Those increases spill over into adverse driving conditions. Ask Rants and the others if we need some more of those

multi-vehicle pile-ups in the fog or ice.

Herman Lenz