Study Argues for 20 MPH Speed Limits for City Streets

ProPublica, an investigative news nonprofit, published an interactive graph last week that makes the argument that lowering the speed limit on city streets even slightly could be the difference between life and death. ProPublica’s Lena Groeger created a chart which showed the chances of survival decreasing as motorist speeds increased.

Speeding Car Crash Lawyer

According to the data, the average pedestrian struck by a driver traveling at 20 miles per hour has a 93% chance of surviving. “Once cars reach a certain speed (just above 20 mph), they rapidly become more deadly. A person is about 70% more likely to be killed if they’re struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph compared to 25 mph” Groeger explained. 

About 1 out of 5 pedestrians will not survive a collision which takes place at 30 mph. While the statistics for the average-aged person are high enough, the statistics related to elderly people are even more staggering. “While it might be common sense that faster cars are deadlier, what’s particularly striking to me is how much more deadly they are for older folks. A 70-year-old hit by a car going 35 mph is about as likely to be killed as a 30-year-old hit by a car going 45 mph (in both cases it’s about a 50/50 chance),” Groeger wrote. 

As you can see in the graph below which was published by ProPublica, when a pedestrian collides with a car that is travelling at 40 mph, 45% of people of all ages will not survive, and 70% of older pedestrians will also not survive. ProPublica’s study not only points out the dangers of collisions at high speeds, but it also points out the advantages to lowering the speed limit in areas with high foot and bicycle traffic. Slower speeds reduces stopping distances, which can make it easier for drivers to come to a complete stop before striking somebody on the road. 

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In 2010, citizens of Warrington, England created a “20’s Plenty” campaign, which was aimed at getting speed limits in the city down to 20 mph. In the time since the start of the campaign, more than 14 million residents of the UK now live on streets with speed limits of 20 mph or less, according to 20’s Plenty founder Rod King. 

While campaigns around the world are looking to reduce speed limits, the Michigan state legislature has been debating the merits of raising the highway speed limit since February. The Republican-controlled Michigan House began to discuss a package of bills that would allow for speed limits of 75 to 80 mph on rural freeways. Discussion of these types of speed increases has hit a speed bump however, as a May 2016 report came out to reveal a 10 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2015. 


Drivers should always be aware of speed limits and traffic signs while on the road, but they should be especially cautious when driving through a busy city street or residential area. As the data shows, it doesn't take much speed to inflict serious harm on a pedestrian. If you or somebody you know has been struck by a car, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Pedestrians have rights and our attorneys will fight to get them the help they need. Call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.