Driving above the speed limit is illegal, but most drivers do it at one time or another. It can seem like an innocuous thing to do. After all, if you’re in control of the vehicle, can a few more miles per hour really hurt?
Unfortunately, it can hurt in more ways than one. If you get a speeding ticket, it can stay on your record for ive years. But that is far from the worst that speeding can do. Speeding can end your life and the lives of others.
Here is what the stats say about speeding while driving.
Let’s start with the most alarming statistic. Speeding accounts for almost one third of all vehicle deaths. In 2020, that amounted to 11,258 fatalities. That’s thousands of families left to mourn for their parents, siblings, and children.
Problematically, speeding-related fatalities have increased over the past ten years. This indicates that awareness of the issue is not growing or, if people are more aware, that it’s not leading to changed behavior.
One reason that may be is that a large proportion of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes are driving under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol-impaired drivers made up thirty-seven percent of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes. People who would not have driven at high speeds while sober are more likely to do so when under the influence. They’re also likely to have less control of the vehicle than if they were speeding sober.
Another reason people continue to speed may be evident from the fact that drivers involved in speeding accidents are most often between fifteen to twenty-five in age. This covers the period known as adolescence, during which many young people feel invincible. They have not matured or had the life experience to accept that they too are mortal.
Deaths are always the headline makers. We look to them first when assessing statistics because they are easy to quantify. We know what it means for thousands of people to have died. Injuries, on the other hand, often fall by the wayside.
The problem with looking at injury statistics is that we don’t really know how seriously to take them. There is a huge difference between breaking a leg and losing a leg. In one case, the damage is temporary while in the other it is permanent.
In 2020, 308,000 people were injured in speeding-related accidents in the US. While it may be difficult to parse how serious each injury was, it is worthwhile to think about how each of those people was seriously affected for some period of time. In many cases, trauma can have an impact on mental health, even if the physical injury is not so serious.
What can we do about it?
It is easy to tell people not to speed and to throw statistics at them. But that does not seem to work. People continue speeding, leading to injury and death, destroying countless lives. It is also easy to dismiss people who hurt others in speeding-related accidents as heartless or cruel.
However, most drivers do speed at some point. We do this not because we don’t care about hurting others but because we put too much faith in our own abilities. When you are speeding down the freeway, chances are that you believe you have full control over your car. This is especially true if the roads are not too crowded.
It is important to remember two things:
- you are not the only person on the road
- your body and mind can betray you
In terms of the first, your control of the vehicle may not be in question. Your driving may be perfect and someone else makes an error. When you’re speeding, you have less time to react and the damage caused by a collision is likely to be greater.
In terms of the second, think about how your mind and body have acted in the past. Have you ever driven somewhere and realized you hadn’t had a conscious thought the entire drive? You were on autopilot. As much as you may intend to focus while driving, you may sometimes turn off. Your awareness of the cars around you is diminished and you are slower to react.
Your body can also betray you. Instead of pressing the brake to stop the car, you may press the accelerator, especially if your mind is on other things. When you’re speeding, any small error can have fatal consequences.
Speeding is responsible for almost a third of all vehicle fatalities. This should serve as a wakeup call for all of us. While we cannot change how others behave, we can start with our own behavior on the road.