Small speed increases can have huge effects on outcomes, according to the results of new crash tests conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Humanetics.

Three impact speeds were tested: 40, 50 and 56 mph. The researchers found that the slightly higher speeds were enough to increase the driver’s risk of severe injury or death.

Now, the AAA and IIHS is urging policymakers to factor in this danger from higher speeds when considering speed limit changes.

The IIHS says drivers often travel faster than posted speed limits, and that when officials raise limits to match travel speeds, people still drive faster.

The AAA Foundation collaborated with IIHS and Humanetics, manufacturer of biofidelic crash test dummies, to examine how speed affects the likelihood and severity of occupant injury in a crash.

At the 40 mph impact speed, there was minimal intrusion into the driver’s space, but at the 50 mph impact speed, there was noticeable deformation of the driver side door opening, dashboard and foot area. At 56 mph, the vehicle interior was significantly compromised, with the dummy’s sensors registering severe neck injuries and a likelihood of fractures to the long bones in the lower leg.

“We conducted these crash tests to assess the effect of speeds on drivers and learned that a small increase could make a big difference on the harm to a human body,” said Dr David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“A speeding driver may arrive at their destination a few minutes faster, but is the trade-off of getting severely injured or even losing one’s life worth it if a crash occurs?”