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  • Writer's pictureBrad Keating

At What Speed Does a Car Crash Become Fatal?

Nobody gets behind the steering wheel expecting to be involved in a car crash, but it happens to roughly 6 million Americans every year. Roughly 90 people die every day in the USA in a fatal car accident- a shocking statistic that stands as a warning to road users everywhere.

Driving above the posted speed limit is one of the leading causes of deadly motor vehicle crashes. When high-speed crashes happen, the fatality risk ties directly to the speed at which the vehicle is traveling.

Here is an overview of what speed a car accident is likely to be fatal and several other important facts surrounding speed limits and speeding laws.

Key Takeaways

  • Death can occur even in a low-speed collision, especially with a pedestrian involved, so drivers should never exceed a safe speed.

  • Driving at or below the posted speed limits is the best way to avoid a fatal car accident.

  • If a speeding driver kills somebody, they can face serious criminal charges and significant jail time under Ohio law.

  • There is no magic number that makes a car accident risk-free, so caution and awareness are essential at all times.

Fatal Car Accident Speeds

Fatal Car Accident Speeds

Fatal Car Accidents Involving Pedestrians

Maximum speed limits exist for a reason: to keep road users safe and alive- including pedestrians. The following information advises on what speed turns car crashes involving pedestrians into fatal accidents.

Risk of Significant Injury: 20-35 MPH

A car traveling at 20 mph or less is considered a safe speed for pedestrians. Moreover, a difference of just 10 more MPH makes pedestrian injuries far more likely and more serious.

Although hitting somebody at 20-35 MPH is unlikely to result in a fatality (unless it is a child), there is still a good chance of broken bones.

Serious Injury and Possible Fatality: 35-55 MPH

Increase the speed from the 30s to the 40s, and the consequences become far more severe. Hitting a person at a speed of 35-55 MPH is very dangerous, with the chance of death becoming a real possibility.

It can also lead to life-alerting injuries and permanent damage.

High Risk of Death: More Than 55 MPH

Hitting a pedestrian in a car traveling over 55 MPH is almost certain to cause a fatal accident. The human body would struggle to survive an impact from a vehicle moving at this speed.

Nobody should drive at this speed in a pedestrian area- as the posted speed limits reflect.

Fatal Car Accidents Involving Vehicles Only

Although two vehicles can collide at higher speeds without as much risk of death, it is not worth taking risks. Crashing into another vehicle or another object can be catastrophic, even at reasonable speeds. Here is the breakdown of risk categories based on statistics.

Risk of Significant Injury: 40-50 MPH

Most car accidents under 40 MPH have a limited impact on the passengers. Modern vehicles are designed to withstand crashes up to this speed. As long as everyone is wearing a seat belt, a collision at 40 to 50 MPH should not end in a fatality.

It can, however, still lead to whiplash, neck injuries, and lacerations.

Serious Injury and Possible Fatality: 50-70 MPH

Anyone driving speeds of between 50 and 70 MPH should be prepared for severe injuries in the event of a crash. Death is a genuine possibility, especially in a head-on collision.

At these speeds, the likelihood of paralysis, brain damage, and other serious bodily injuries increase significantly.

The chances of a fatality at a high-speed collision drop substantially when diving below 60 MPH instead of below 70 MPH. Even if the speed limit allows 70 MPH or higher, drivers should remember this fact.

High Risk of Death: More Than 70 MPH

A motor vehicle traveling over 70 MPH is a fatal car accident near certainty if it crashes with another vehicle or any other object. At that speed, there is almost no time for reactions, very little chance to regain control, and a huge amount of force that few people could survive.

Areas with higher speed limits are prime zones for deadly crashes, particularly in adverse weather conditions and when somebody is driving recklessly. Reducing speed could be the difference between surviving a highway crash or not.

Why Is Speeding Dangerous?

Aside from the obvious- the risk of serious injury or death if involved in an accident- speeding is dangerous for several reasons. Everything becomes riskier, more difficult to manage, and far more likely to end in disaster when a person drives faster than the speed limit.

  • Speed limits are set based on the area. If the sign says 30, for example, those roads are probably full of pedestrians, with crossings, traffic lights, and other things you might not notice if driving too fast.

  • If something goes wrong when you are behind the wheel, there are ways to react and minimize the impact. However; the faster you drive, the less time you have. A few seconds can be the difference between life and death, but driving too fast takes them away.

  • It is easier to lose control of a fast-traveling vehicle.

  • Even a car airbag can cause traumatic injuries if met with too much force.

Speeding Laws In Ohio

Speeding Laws In Ohio

Ignoring the most basic of highway safety laws is dangerous and reckless. Under Ohio law, repeated speeding offenses are punishable with high fines and jail time. The degree of the penalty depends on the severity of the offense and how many points it adds to a license.

Driving more than 20 MPH over the limit is considered reckless driving. It is a fourth-degree speeding offense and carries jail time, a revoked license, significant fines, and a potential criminal record.

If a person causes an accident because of speeding, they are certain to face criminal charges. Kill somebody in a speeding car, and manslaughter and wrongful death charges are on the table.


A Columbus Ohio car accident lawyer at The Keating Firm is on hand to assist and advise. If you are involved in a car accident and require legal guidance, don't hesitate to call and arrange a free consultation. They can also help determine how long does it take for one to get a rental car after an accident.

Speeding can be deadly- a lot more often than you think. Don't take the risk. Being involved in a lawsuit and then losing in it is one thing, but damaging a person's life or yours is something much bigger.


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