Fatalities Down 26 Percent Since Faster Mich. Speed Limit

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Some call it the most ignored law since prohibition.

The speed limit.

So ignored that roughly 10 years ago, Michigan and other states upped it to as high as 70 miles per hour in spots.

Some warned that would cause more traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. New statistics from the Michigan Criminal Justice Information Center show -- that hasn't happened.

"There's nothing in Michigan that would have raised any red flags about ... an increase in the speed limit that was obviously troublesome," said Anne Readett, communications manager for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

Not only have the numbers of crashes, injuries and deaths not grown -- they've actually decreased.

An analysis of the numbers by News 10 shows crashes on Michigan roadways are down 17 percent between 1995 and 2005. Injuries are down a whopping 38 percent.

And fatalies are down 26 percent in the last ten years.

Until 1995, federal law mandated a 55 mile per hour speed limit across the country.

Since that limit was lifted, national statistics show a picture similar to Michigan's -- decreases in crashes, injuries and deaths on the roads.

Despite the numbers, there's nothing to show the higher speeds actually make roads safer.

There's just no evidence to show the new speed limits have made highways less safe.

And of course, safety officials stress, the safer road stats shouldn't give anyone a license to drive as fast as they want.

"The speed limits are posted for a reason," Readett said, adding that traffic crashes are inherently more dangerous when they occur at high speeds.

Numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show crashes around the country are down 33 percent, injuries are down 37 percent and highway deaths are down 16 percent.