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118 years after the first speed limit, how fast are cars moving?

Most Connecticut drivers know the dangers of speeding, but some motorists still do it. However, you may not know that Connecticut was a leader in trying to slow cars down.

The first automobile speed limit law in the United States passed in Connecticut in 1901. At the time, motor vehicles were limited to 12 miles per hour (mph) in cities and 15 mph outside of the city.

Automobiles were relatively new - the word "automobile" first appeared in a major U.S. newspaper less than two years prior to the law's passage. At the time, drivers were required to reduce their speed when meeting or passing a horse-drawn vehicle - or even completely stop if necessary to avoid frightening horses.

Speed limits today

The nationwide speed limit of 55 mph was abolished in 1995. Forty-one states have increased their speed limits to at least 70 mph on highways in that time, with some states going as high as 80 mph.

In Connecticut, speed limits don't reach above 65 mph. That speed limit is for limited access roads and rural interstates.

Higher speeds are generally more likely to cause accidents. In the time since the 55-mph speed limit was abolished, nearly 37,000 additional people have died in traffic incidents due to rising speed limits. Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) discovered that for every 5 mph increase in a highway's speed limit, traffic fatalities rose 8.5 percent.

While Connecticut's speed limits are lower than many states, drivers who push beyond those limits can cause fatal accidents on the roadways. Drivers may want to look back in Connecticut's history and consider the care new motorists in 1901 were required to practice on the road.

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