According to the NHTSA, speeding contributes to more than a quarter of fatal accidents on U.S. roadways: an incredible 26 percent of accidents with fatalities each year. Unfortunately, speeding considerably increases both accident risk and the potential for fatalities or serious injuries in an accident. Each year, the economic cost of speeding-related accidents tops more than $40 billion, making it an expensive challenge for drivers across the nation. Ultimately, substantially increased speed can cause as much risk as a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol.
The Importance of Speed Limits
Many drivers quickly grow frustrated by speed limits, especially when they need to rush to reach their destinations. Many drivers quickly develop a habit of pushing speed limits—traveling 5, 10, or more miles per hour over the limit. Unfortunately, this causes serious problems for drivers on the road.
Speed limits represent the fastest speed vehicles should travel in optimal conditions. The city chooses speed limits based on a variety of factors, including:
- Twists and turns in the road
- The condition of the road
- Blind hills or curves
- How many other roads connect onto that stretch of road
- The area around the road; residential roads, for example, may have lower speed limits.
In determining speed limits, the city takes a look at how fast drivers can safely travel on each specific road. Attempting to travel faster than this speed can create serious dangers to both the occupants of the speeding vehicle and others on the road.
The faster a vehicle travels, the more time the driver needs to respond to hazards in the road. Road conditions can change in the blink of an eye. A driver may, for example, need to stop fast if another driver pulls out in front of them, or if a hazard moves onto the road: a child on a bicycle, perhaps. The faster the vehicle travels, the more time it takes for the driver to respond effectively, whether the vehicle needs to stop abruptly or make a fast turn to avoid an unanticipated obstacle in the road.
Obeying speed limits makes it easier for other drivers to predict your behavior. When you travel at the speed limit, other drivers can more effectively predict when you will arrive at a preset location or destination. By pushing the speed limit, on the other hand, you may change other drivers’ ability to realistically predict, for example, how long it will take you to get to a specific crossroad. As a result, they may pull out in front of you too fast for you to respond.
Speed limits exist, not to limit drivers or slow them down, but to keep everyone on the road safe. In residential neighborhoods, for example, slower speed limits can help protect people who walk around the neighborhood, young drivers, or children on bicycles who simply want to enjoy the neighborhood roads.
Beyond Speed Limits: Controlling Speed in Less Optimal Conditions
Since the posted speed limit on most roads represents the maximum appropriate speed for vehicles in optimal conditions, when weather conditions change, many roads require slower speeds for drivers to travel safely. During rain, snow, or icy conditions, drivers may need to slow down to navigate the road safely. Aggressive driving in poor weather conditions can increase the danger to both you and other vehicles around you. In poor conditions, you may need more time to respond or maneuver safely. Icy conditions can increase the risk of sliding, requiring slower speeds to travel safely. Accidents caused by traveling at excessive speeds for current road and weather conditions also factor into the high percentage of speeding accidents each year.
Keeping Yourself Safe on the Road
For many drivers, speeding quickly becomes an everyday way of life. Many drivers do not even realize that their speed has increased well beyond the posted speed limit, nor do they recognize the dangers presented by this activity. Unfortunately, that means that even drivers who choose not to speed must take steps to keep themselves safe on the road. To stay safe, try taking some of these steps:
Do you have a habit of speeding when you drive? To drop your speed, try some of these key tactics.
- Leave with plenty of time to spare. When you must proceed quickly to your destination, especially if you find yourself tight on time, it may increase the likelihood that you will speed. By leaving with plenty of time to spare, you can relax and enjoy the drive, even if traffic slows down, forcing you to wait longer than anticipated to reach your destination.
- Use your cruise control. When you must spend a great deal of time on the highway or interstate, especially on a long road trip, you may find your speed creeping up unintentionally. Instead of allowing your speed to get away from you, take advantage of your cruise control. Set your speed at the speed limit and do not give in to the temptation to let your speed creep up.
- Remember that speeding rarely saves you time. In many cases, speeding causes more traffic snarls than it presents. One speeding vehicle can slow down traffic around you as other drivers struggle to respond appropriately. You may, in many cases, find that speeding uses more gas due to the need to stop and start frequently. Not only that, but ultimately, speeding rarely shaves enough time off of your trip to help you actually reach your destination sooner.
- Leave adequate following room. When you follow behind another vehicle, pay attention to how much room you really need in between the two vehicles. Follow the three-second rule: when the vehicle in front of you passes an object, it should take a minimum of three seconds for you to reach the same marker on the road. On highways and interstates with higher speed limits, this may mean leaving a full car length between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Dealing With Other Speeding Drivers
While you can control your own rate of speed, you may struggle to deal with other speeding drivers on the road. You can still keep yourself and your passengers safe by using these tactics.
- Allow speeding drivers to move around you and pass on. Do not attempt to block a speeding driver, which can increase their frustration and increase accident risk. Instead, get out of the way, if needed, and allow the speeding driver to pass you. If you get stuck with a speeding driver behind you, pull off of the road and allow them to pass.
- Contact employers, if needed. Many companies require their employees to drive as part of their daily job duties. If you notice a vehicle with clear markings zooming around town, make note of the company and the license plate, and let the employer know. Often, employers fail to realize the demands they have placed on their employees. By notifying them of a problem, you can help them create better policies or discipline speeding employees appropriately.
- Avoid using your cell phone to notify the police while driving. If you notice a driver traveling at an extremely accelerated rate of speed or engaging in reckless behaviors in addition to speeding, you may want to contact the police. While contacting the police can help slow down speeding drivers, you do not want to increase your own risk of an accident in the meantime. Make sure you pull off the road into a safe location while using your cell phone. You may also choose to have a passenger contact the police, rather than trying to do it yourself while driving.
- Allow plenty of room for everyone to share the road. You may struggle to clear the way for other drivers, especially those who drive aggressively. In many cases, aggressive drivers may push you to want to drive more aggressively yourself. This behavior, however, can seriously increase accident risk. Instead, share the road, even if other drivers choose to speed.
Why People Speed
Many people do not think twice about increasing their rate of speed on the road. What elements increase a driver’s risk of speeding? By understanding what causes speeding on the road, many drivers can decrease their own dangerous behaviors as well as potentially predict the speeding behaviors of others on the road.
- Drivers assume the rules do not apply to them. They know speed limits exist for a reason, but they assume that they can safely control their vehicles at higher rates of speed. Often, drivers become excessively confident, especially if they have chosen to speed before without repercussions. Unfortunately, these drivers often forget that they cannot always predict the behavior of other drivers on the road, which may cause more serious accident risks.
- Drivers get in a hurry. Even though they understand that speeding may not significantly impact the amount of time it takes them to reach their destination, especially in stop and go traffic conditions, they may attempt to speed to reach their destinations more efficiently. Rushed drivers may also engage in more aggressive driving behaviors, substantially increasing the risk that an accident will occur.
- Drivers may become distracted, failing to notice as their rate of speed increases. The risk of speeding due to distraction increases the longer a driver spends on the road. Drivers who grow distracted for other reasons, including cell phone use, eating behind the wheel, or chatting with other passengers in the vehicle, may suffer higher rates of distraction and, therefore, greater accident risk.
- Drivers may assume that speeding only becomes a problem if they get caught. While speeding causes serious hazards on the road, many drivers only worry about the ticket that they will receive if caught speeding. Unfortunately, this may make drivers more likely to speed.
How Speeding Impacts the Aftermath of an Accident
After a serious accident, you may wonder whether speeding impacts what will happen as you seek compensation. Speaking with a lawyer can help you better determine how speeding may have influenced your specific accident; however, consider:
- Speeding may change the liability balance in an accident. The police may assign a single individual primary responsibility at the scene of the accident. Closer examination, however, may reveal that the driver not initially deemed responsible for the accident contributed through speeding. Excessive speeds can make it difficult to respond appropriately when the other driver commits a dangerous or hazardous act on the road. If the other driver caused the accident, but you chose to speed at the time of the accident, it may change the compensation you can receive. If the insurance company determines that you caused a specific percentage of the accident by speeding, your compensation will likely be reduced by that amount.
- The other driver’s speed does not impact the compensation you can receive. While speeding yourself can change the balance of liability following an accident, the other driver’s speed may not change the compensation you receive. After a car accident, you can file a claim for damages suffered during the accident, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost time at work. While the other driver may face increased legal penalties for choosing to speed, your compensation will not change based on the other driver’s speed.
- Speeding may cause more serious injuries. At higher rates of speed, fast-moving vehicles can cause substantially more damage than they can at lower rates of speed. As a result, passengers in both vehicles may suffer more injuries than they would if the vehicles had traveled at lower rates of speed. This may mean a longer time in recovery, higher medical bills, and even permanent injuries that could impact passengers in both vehicles for the rest of their lives.
If you suffered injuries in an accident involving speeding, you may have serious questions that you need an experienced attorney to answer. Any time you suffer serious injuries in an accident, working with a lawyer can help you answer those questions more effectively.
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