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Following the Speed Limit Saves Lives

The letter "Drivers Need Road Rules That Really Work," Dec. 7, misses the point. A reduction of "average" vehicle speed did not occur "over the years." It occurred when the 55-m.p.h. speed limit became law.

As a direct consequence of that action, motor-vehicle-related deaths dropped from 55,500 in 1973 to 46,400 in 1974. Deaths crept upward as speeds rose for a while, but now the toll is about 40,000 per year because of improved safety features and greater use of seat belts.

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It's true that drivers consistently exceed the speed limit. If they go 65 when the limit is 55, they'll go 75 when the limit is 65. (That has been the case with drivers going from Pennsylvania to Ohio on the turnpike.)

After 1996 maybe we'll decide that saving minutes here and there isn't worth an additional 5,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries.

John D. McGervey

Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Professor of Physics

Case Western Reserve University

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