Date of Thesis

Spring 2012


This thesis examines two panel data sets of 48 states from 1981 to 2009 and utilizes ordinary least squares (OLS) and fixed effects models to explore the relationship between rural Interstate speed limits and fatality rates and whether rural Interstate speed limits affect non-Interstate safety. Models provide evidence that rural Interstate speed limits higher than 55 MPH lead to higher fatality rates on rural Interstates though this effect is somewhat tempered by reductions in fatality rates for roads other than rural Interstates. These results provide some but not unanimous support for the traffic diversion hypothesis that rural Interstate speed limit increases lead to decreases in fatality rates of other roads. To the author’s knowledge, this paper is the first econometric study to differentiate between the effects of 70 MPH speed limits and speed limits above 70 MPH on fatality rates using a multi-state data set. Considering both rural Interstates and other roads, rural Interstate speed limit increases above 55 MPH are responsible for 39,700 net fatalities, 4.1 percent of total fatalities from 1987, the year limits were first raised, to 2009.


Rural Interstates, Speed Limits, Fatality Rates, Traffic Diversion, Speed Spillover, Econometrics

Access Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Chris Magee

Second Advisor

Doug Gabauer

Included in

Economics Commons