crash test dummy Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Reducing Speed to Save Lives

Each year, more than 1.25 million people – many of them young people – die in automobile accidents. And whether or not a car is exceeding posted speed limits often is the difference between life and death.

NEW YORK – We can save so many lives around the world if we just slow down. Each year, more than 1.25 million people – many of them young people – die in automobile crashes. And a large proportion of these deaths are preventable: about one-third are due to vehicles traveling at excessive speeds. In low- and middle-income countries, that figure is closer to half.

Regardless of where one lives, speeding is a lethal problem. Studies show that on most roads, in most countries, 40-50% of all cars travel above the posted speed limit. And whether or not a car is speeding can be the difference between life and death. For example, someone who is hit by a vehicle traveling at 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour has a three times higher risk of dying than if they had been hit by a vehicle moving at 30 miles per hour.

This means that just setting urban speed limits at 30 miles per hour or less, and allowing local authorities to reduce speed limits further around schools and other areas with high pedestrian traffic, would save many lives. It is encouraging that 47 countries around the world are already implementing these commonsense practices. But we must do far more to expand the reach of such measures, and to ensure that more governments adopt them.

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