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Have higher speed limits made Michigan freeways more dangerous?

It's been three years since Michigan raised the maximum speed limit on more than 1,500 miles of our freeways. Has it made them less safe? Despite the fact that there has been an increase in the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities, experts say the jury's still out.

Speed limits on over 600 miles of freeways in rural areas were increased to 75 miles per hour (mph) and to 65 mph on some 900 miles of other freeways. State officials say they chose the safest sections for the changes, based on crash data, as well as straight stretches of road.

According to data for 2018, which was the first full year that the new speed limits were in force, the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities on the 75 mph sections all hit a 5-year high. However, speed couldn't specifically be pinpointed as the main factor in all of these crashes.

So far, those studying the changes in driving habits since the law went into effect have found that, on average, drivers have increased their speed by less than the 5-mph increases on these freeways. However, officials say they don't want to draw any conclusions about the effect of the speed limit hikes until they have at least three years of data.

Overall, even as states throughout the country have increased speed limits on interstates, freeways and highways, the number of fatalities has declined. Experts attribute that fact to the multitude of safety features available on newer-model vehicles.

However, safety experts warn that, as one Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) official says, "Greater speed automatically provides greater risk." He adds that even with safer vehicles, "at the end of the day, it's still physics. Speed is distance over time...and with everyone on their cellphone that I see on the freeways, I would bet that our reaction times are worse."

Even if someone is not exceeding the speed limit, if they cause an accident, they are still responsible for their actions. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash due to another driver's actions, it's wise to find out what your options are for getting the compensation you need.

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