Of the top ten most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians, nine are in Florida. In response to this grim statistic, the Florida Department of Transportation is proposing that speed limits be lowered to decrease the number of pedestrian crashes. Currently, most state roads are designed for speed limits between 40-45 miles per hour. New designs that are aimed to make roads safer for bikers and walkers could reduce the speed limit to as low as 25 miles per hour. The FDOT’s initiative is based on studies that show that only 1 out of 10 pedestrians who are struck by a vehicle traveling 40 miles per hour survive. Conversely, 9 out of 10 pedestrians who are struck by a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour survive.

Speed limits are established to reduce the probability and severity of crashes. A speed limit sign notifies drivers of the maximum speed that is considered acceptable during times of favorable weather and visibility. Speed limits allow for a uniform flow of traffic and balance risk and travel time, for the most efficient and safe use of Florida’s roadways.

Federal legislation gives individual states the authority to establish their own maximum speed limits. The Florida Legislature authorizes the FDOT to establish speeds on state highways up to certain maximums. These speed limits include 70 miles per hour on Florida highways, 65 miles per hour on four-lane divided highways outside urban areas (with a population of 5,000 or more) and 60 miles per hour on other state highways.  

Speed limits are established by traffic engineering studies. It is common traffic engineering knowledge that about 85 percent of drivers travel at a reasonably safe speed for the various roadway conditions they encounter, regardless of signage. However, 15 percent of drivers need to be reminded and speed laws must be enforced. Based on this knowledge, the FDOT uses the “85th percentile” method to determine the appropriate and safe posted speed limits in conjunction with the maximum statute based speeds. The FDOT bases this method on national and studies and observations.

Speed limits can make a big impact on the outcomes of vehicle crashes. A driver’s choice of speed is a delicate balance between expediance and safety. However, it is widely known that driving at slower speeds improves safety. Accordingly, the FDOT is taking a number of measures to make Florida roadways less like highways to encourage drivers to slow down. For instance, the FDOT is looking to reduce the width of driving lanes by 10 feet and increasing sidewalk width from 5 feet to as much as 12 feets in heavy pedestrian areas. Additionally, there are plans to improve transit connections, add dedicated bike lanes, introduce roundabouts, and implement obstacles to reduce jaywalking.

While all of these measures should benefit Florida drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, the unfortunate fact is that many drivers will continue to disregard the legal speed limit. Accordingly, one of the leading causes of negligent driving in Florida personal injury claims is that a driver was speeding and that the act of speeding is what caused the accident and resulting injuries. If you or a loved one are injured by a speeding driver, contact the attorneys at Wittmer|Linehan to better understand your rights.