Speeding is one of the most common aggressive driving behaviors. It’s also one of the most deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than a quarter of traffic fatalities in 2017 were due to speeding. All these deadly crashes were preventable. Most people understand the basic dangers of speeding. So, why do people still speed? And what exactly makes speeding dangerous?
Why Do People Speed?
Many people drive faster than the speed limit out of habit, especially when traveling familiar paths. These drivers view the posted limits as merely a suggestion, rather than the law. If the road is open in front of them, they go as fast as they like.
This is one of the most common excuses cops hear when they pull people over for speeding. These folks need a reminder that getting pulled over for a traffic violation or worse, causing a crash, is going to slow them down far more than driving at a safe speed.
To Get Past Traffic
Some people speed thinking it will help them get through traffic congestion, when in reality, it most likely slows them down. Such aggressive tactics can intimidate other drivers, causing them to brake or cause a crash.
This is another common reason people speed, though many will not admit it. These people think they have superior driving skills and posted speed limits apply to those who don’t know how to handle a vehicle. They may also like the adrenaline rush of breezing past others on the road, even if they ultimately arrive at the same red light. These drivers never consider that their overconfidence is putting themselves and everyone else on the road at risk.
Why Speeding is Dangerous
Disregard of Safety Recommendations
Posted speed limits are not arbitrary. They are the result of specific recommendations from safety engineers who consider decades of data on factors that contribute to crashes. Some of these include road capacity, lane width, the number of intersections, and the straightness of the road. As a driver, it’s unlikely that you are considering all the same factors that the experts are. A curve might be sharper than you realize or there may be a pedestrian crossing around the bend.
Deviation from the Prevailing Speed
One of the biggest predictors of crashes is deviation from the prevailing speed. In other words, going much faster (or slower) than most of the surrounding traffic significantly increases the risk of crashing. So, if other cars drive slowly due to traffic or bad weather, driving the posted speed limit may be too fast. The posted speed limits are meant to define the prevailing speed, so they should always be your guide.
Loss of Reaction Time and Increased Stopping Distance
We’ve illustrated this in the past in the context of distracted driving. Stopping distance breaks down into the distance your car travels as you 1) notice the obstacle, 2) react by braking or steering out of the way, and 3) bring the car to a complete stop. The faster you’re traveling, the less time you have to react and the greater distance your car will travel before finally stopping. If you’re speeding, by the time you notice the obstacle it might be too late to prevent a crash.
Higher Speeds Mean Deadlier Crashes
Higher speeds means your car will crash with greater force. While the safety features in your vehicle are designed to absorb the force of impact on your body, they have limitations. In a low-speed crash, your seat belt and airbags may provide enough protection so that you will walk away with minor bumps and bruises. At high speed, the same crash could be permanently disabling or deadly.
In some cases, the difference in severity of a crash is a matter of the angle and point of impact. Speeding increases your chances of losing control of your vehicle as you try to avoid an obstacle. Instead of bracing yourself and controlling that angle of impact, you might make it worse.
Aggressive Drivers are Public Threats
Speeding is one of the hallmark behaviors of aggressive driving. Do you speed or exhibit other common aggressive driving behaviors? Find out how you score on our aggressive driving quiz.