Rising speed limits: What are your auto insurance risks?

More states are saying "yes" to increasing speed limits on part or all of their interstates. Eleven states have upped their interstate speed limits since 2011.

Higher interstate speeds means your chances of getting in a high-speed crash increase – and if you’re found at fault, you run the risk of either paying a much higher premium, or even having your car insurance cancelled.

rising speed limits auto insurance How are higher speed limits linked to more crashes?

According to the National Safety Council, a nonprofit specializing in safety issues, in 1987 the national speed limit was relaxed and some states upped their speed limit to 65 mph on rural interstates. Road deaths then increased by up to 22 percent.

After 1995 when the limit was repealed and states could set their own maximum speed limit, where 70 mph or over was the speed limit, deaths increased by 35 percent compared to states that didn’t raise the limit.

Today in 34 states, the speed limit is 70 mph or above on at least some of their highways, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

In sixteen states you can travel 75 mph on parts or all of the interstate. In four states you can drive 80 mph on parts of the interstate, and in Texas, cars can travel 85 mph on a 40-mile stretch of road between San Antonio and Austin.

And these increased speed limits don’t prevent drivers from speeding over the posted limit.

A 2011 survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that about half of all drivers said in the last month they drove 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway. A quarter of those interviewed said they believed that was fine. 

Why is speeding so dangerous?

Drivers continue to speed, despite the potentially fatal consequences.

In 2012, more than 10,000 Americans died in crashes resulting from driving too fast for conditions, driving above the speed limit or racing.

Since 2003,  speeding has accounted for about 30 percent of all traffic deaths, according to IIHS.

"This trend of raising speed limits will degrade safety," says Anne McCartt, research vice president and highway safety expert with IIHS. "The evidence is clear and compelling over time."

How speed maims and kills

There's a strong relationship between travel speed and your chances of getting in a serious accident, McCartt says. She and other researchers have been studying the issue since the early 1990s.

Simply put, how fast you're going affects your risk of getting in a crash, she says.

And what happens if you're speeding and you come across a crash? You'll travel a longer distance before you apply the brakes and you'll need more distance before you stop.

Plus the higher the speedometer reading, the more severe the impact. Even with technological advances, modern vehicles aren't designed to withstand the tremendous crash impact generated at high speeds, McCartt says.

She points to the fact that groups such as IIHS conduct crash tests at 30 to 40 mph and not at 70 to 80 mph.

Once your speed rises above 50 mph, your vehicle protects you less in a crash. James Solomon, director of defensive driving and training with the National Safety Council, a national organization specializing in safety issues, says at 60 mph, you double your chances of dying in a high-impact crash.

Potential car insurance consequences

If you get a ticket for speeding on an interstate, it will affect your car insurance rate, says Loretta Worters, Insurance Information Institute (III) vice-president.

“Moving violations -- depending on how far you're above the posted speed limit -- results in points, and that in turn will affect your insurance," she says.

Your driving record is one of several factors companies look at when determining your premium – and a speeding ticket can tarnish your driving record.

If you're caught driving well above the speed limit, insurers could consider it reckless driving – and a conviction for this type of behavior can result in fines, imprisonment and license suspension.

You’ll also pay more for your insurance -- and you might even find your insurance company won’t renew your policy.   If that happens, you may be forced to take out high risk insurance, which is much more expensive than regular car insurance.

There can be other negative insurance consequences, too. In Georgia, if you're caught speeding   at 85 mph or over, you'll cough up an additional $200 along with the usual fees and fines from the local jurisdiction. 

Free Insurance Quotes