For the fourth year in a row, the numbers of vehicle crashes in Texas involving both injuries and fatalities have risen, according to the Insurance Council of Texas, the largest state insurance trade association in the country.
The group says both numbers began rising dramatically in 2012, when Texas highway speed limits were raised.
“With new safety features on vehicles and the 55 mile per hour speed limit, traffic fatalities had gone down every year,” said Mark Hanna, an ICT spokesman. “As soon as the speed limits began rising on Texas highways, so did the number of traffic injuries and fatalities.”
Traffic fatalities bottomed out in 2010 and then slowly began to increase in 2011. In 2012, when higher speed limits were posted across the state, injury traffic collisions increased 8.3 percent, while statewide traffic fatalities increased 9.1 percent.
Both numbers continued to increase in 2013 and 2014.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the improving economy is likely a significant factor in the increase, but higher speed limits may also be contributing.
“Our research has shown that the higher the posted speed limits, the faster drivers go and more crash deaths occur as a result,” said Anne McCartt, senior vice president of IIHS.
“The economic recovery is probably the main reason that fatalities are increasing in many states, but the trend toward higher speed limits is troubling. A large body of research suggests these higher limits will inevitably result in more crashes and fatalities.”
Hanna said traveling at higher speeds during dangerous driving conditions such as around construction zones, hazardous weather and at night with poor lighting, will greatly increase your chances of having a serious accident.
“There are times when despite the posted speed limit, drivers should slow down and use caution. Just because the speed limit says 75, doesn’t mean that’s how fast you must drive,” Hanna said. “Distracted driving has also played a contributing factor in the state’s auto injury and fatality count.”
Auto insurance rates in Texas have also risen during this time reflecting the costs of auto repairs and increased medical costs.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s most recent report lists Texas as 14th among states in auto insurance premiums.