AAA: Speed matters when it comes to crash safety

Study found drastic differences between impacts at 40 mph and 56 mph

SAN ANTONIO – A new study finds speed can be the difference between a little damage and severe consequences following collisions.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and test and sensor company Humanetics examined the effect of impact speeds of 40 mph, 50 mph and 56 mph on vehicles and crash dummies.

What the research found was the faster a driver is going before a crash, the less like they’ll be able to slow down in time to reduce the impact of that crash. The tests were conducted on 2010 Honda CR-V EX crossovers, because they are representative of the average of vehicles on the road and had a top safety rating in crash testing.

At 40 mph, there’s some intrusion into the driver’s space, but at 50 mph, the damage to vehicle is more intense and there are more signs of potential injury. The risk is even higher at 56 mph, the researchers found.

“The dummy showed high risk of facial fractures and severe brain injury,” said Joshua Zuber, a spokesperson for AAA Texas. “So a kind of a summary there is that crashing at higher speeds can cancel out vehicle safety technologies like airbags and improved structural designs.”

A 2019 IIHS study showed rising speed limits have cost 37,000 lives over the past quarter century. Texas is one of 41 states which allow speed limits of 70 miles per hour or more, and one of only eight that allow maximum speeds of 80 miles per hour or more on some roadways.

Zuber said drivers tend to overestimate the time saved by speeding.

I think it’s important to understand that drivers can tend to overestimate the time saved by speeding.

“A motorist would have to travel 100 to roughly save five minutes, going at 80 miles per hour instead of 75 miles per hour,” he said. “So speed kills and isn’t worth the cost.”

AAA Texas advises that drivers follow the speed limit and give plenty to their fellow drivers on the road. Experts recommend policymakers look at not only at speeding enforcement but also at changing the design of roads to reduce the temptation for drivers to speed.

Read more on our traffic page.

About the Author: