The article, "Maryland traffic fatalities hit 66-year low" (March 24), was good news for Maryland motorists, but that may all change if Gov. Larry Hogan signs legislation to increase speed limits on Maryland interstates and expressways to 70 miles per hour. Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn announced that in 2014 there were 442 people killed on Maryland's roadways, the lowest number of fatalities since 1948. However, one of the major factors in highway crashes is speed. Simply put, speed kills, and raising the speed limit to 70 mph will make Maryland highways less safe for everyone.
Convincing and compelling research by government and independent organizations shows that higher speed limits result in more serious crashes and more deaths and injuries. In Maryland, speed accounts for about 40 percent of all traffic fatalities and is well above the national rate of 29 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Studies show that when speed limits are raised, speeds go up and so do fatal crashes. For example, a large truck weighing 80,000 pounds barreling down the highway at 70 mph instead of the current 65 mph increases the energy of a truck in a collision by 16 percent, resulting in significantly more damage and destruction in a crash.
The negative impacts of higher speeds also extend to environmental health and safety. Higher speed limits increase both fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. A big rig traveling at 70 mph is also guzzling more fuel and spewing more pollution.
Even with the progress Maryland is making in reducing highway fatalities, public health and safety groups believe that 442 deaths are still too many. Maryland state transportation officials agree and have adopted a safety initiative called Toward Zero Deaths in Maryland. The Zero Deaths initiative identifies some of the dangers of speeding, including reduced ability to steer safely around curves or objects, extended stopping and reaction distances and increased probability of serious injury or death. Raising speed limits in Maryland contradicts and impedes this worthwhile effort.
In the article, Secretary Rahn stated, "Governor Hogan cares about this issue because he understands it's about people's lives, and it's one of the things we can do something about." We completely agree and urge Governor Hogan to veto HB 194/SB 44. This bill will only contribute to the unacceptable carnage on our highways and set back goals in Maryland for reducing pollution and conserving fuel.
Jacqueline S. Gillan, Washington, D.C.
The writer is president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.