Speeding Is a Factor in 17 Percent of All Fatal Accidents
Every day you get in the car, chances are you will encounter a speeding driver during your trip. Speeding has become so commonplace that most of the time we don’t even give a second thought to someone that is traveling above the speed limit. But speeding is one of the most dangerous habits on the road. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 17 percent of all traffic crashes in 2017 and 26 percent of all traffic fatalities were caused by speeding. Knowing the dangers of speeding and why people speed can help keep you safe on the road.
What Is Speeding?
The definition of speeding may seem pretty straightforward, but there is more to speeding than simply driving above the speed limit. Driving too fast for road conditions can also be dangerous, even if you are traveling below the posted speed.
In Florida, changing weather conditions is just one of the reasons why a driver might need to adjust their speed. While driving 55 miles per hour may be appropriate on a clear, sunny day, the same speed can lead to catastrophic results in the rain. In 2017, 92 fatal accidents were caused by drivers driving too fast for conditions, approximately 43 percent of all fatal speeding-related accidents. Other changes in conditions that may affect safe driving speeds include:
- Fog or smog
- Sun glare
- Traffic congestion
- Poorly maintained roads
- Nearby pedestrians or animals
- Debris in the roadway
In Florida, the law requires all drivers to follow posted speed limits. The state uses absolute speed limits, meaning a driver cannot try to defend why their speed constituted as a safe speed. In addition to specifying how fast drivers are allowed to drive, the law clearly states that drivers must drive at a speed that is “reasonable and prudent and having regard to potential hazards.” A driver caught speeding will face a fine up to $500. Drivers caught speeding in a school or construction zone will pay double the base fine for their infraction. The driver may also incur points on their driver’s license and additional fines if their speeding resulted in bodily harm to someone else.
Why Do People Speed?
Driving at an appropriate speed is one of the most easily controllable variables on the road. But accidents continue to happen every day. So why do drivers continue to speed, despite the known dangers of driving too fast? While there is no excuse for speeding, some of the most commonly used reasons for driving too fast include:
- Running late: Running late is one of the most common reasons people use for driving too fast. The fear of being late to work or school can cause a driver to disregard the speed limit. Leaving early and checking traffic can help reduce the temptation to speed.
- Adrenaline: Far too many drivers report driving too fast because of a “need for speed.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that young male drivers are more likely than any other demographic to be speeding at the time of a fatal accident.
- Inexperience: Speeding is common for new drivers, especially teenagers. One of the reasons for this is inexperience. New drivers often don’t realize just how dangerous speeding is. On top of that, because of their lack of experience, they may underestimate how long it will take them to stop in the event of an emergency. Inexperience also comes into play with changing road conditions. A new driver may not appreciate the impact the changing conditions will have on their ability to maintain control of the vehicle or the distance they may need to come to a stop.
- The driver is unfamiliar with the area: Florida is a popular destination for tourists. This means that there are thousands of drivers on the road that do not know the area. Drivers may fail to observe posted speed limits or disregard dangers that local residents know about. Driving too fast for road conditions is common for visitors who are not used to the changing weather patterns or are unaware of the active wildlife presence in the state, for example.
- Habit: Have you ever driven to work only to discover once you arrive that you don’t remember anything about your drive? Studies have shown that as humans, we can slip into routines that are so familiar that we zone out. This means that we don’t really think about our actions as we take them. When it comes to driving, taking the same route every day can ingrain every turn into your mind. Because of this, many drivers consistently drive over the speed limit without even realizing it.
- Driving under the influence: Speeding and driving under the influence can be a fatal combination. When a driver drinks their judgment is affected. Additionally, a drunk driver may try to get home as fast as possible to avoid detection. Both drinking and speeding reduce a driver’s reaction time, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
The Dangers of Speeding
In 2017, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported 2,924 fatal accidents. 124, or just over 4 percent of these accidents were a direct result of a driver driving above the posted speed. But while only 4 percent of accidents were caused by speeding, 10 percent of all traffic fatalities were a result of excessive speed. Thankfully, Florida has one of the lowest rates of speed-related fatalities in the nation. Still, it’s important to understand why speeding is so dangerous.
- Speeding decreases a driver’s reaction time. Driving on the road requires the ability to be able to make split-second decisions. A child running out into the street or another driver slamming on the brakes can give you very little time to react appropriately. Speeding decreases the amount of time you have to make a decision and avoid unexpected hazards.
- Excess speed increases the amount of time a driver needs to stop. Two things affect the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to come to a stop: “thinking distance” and braking distance. In other words, the total amount of time it takes to stop is how long it takes your brain to tell you that you need to stop plus how long it actually takes your car’s brakes to stop the car. For a car driving 40 miles per hour, it takes 120 feet to stop. Increase the speed to 60 miles per hour and you double the amount of time it takes to come to a complete stop.
- The energy involved in a crash increases the faster a vehicle is traveling. The laws of physics prove that the faster a vehicle is driven, the more energy it has. When a vehicle collides with another object, whether it be a tree or another car, that energy is absorbed by the accident. When speed is increased from 40 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour, the amount of energy increases by 125 percent. This results in more severe injuries and increases the risk of death.
- Speeding reduces the effectiveness of safety devices. The safety devices in your vehicle and on the roadway are designed to keep you safe in the event of an accident. But they are only meant to withstand a maximum speed. When this speed is exceeded, the safety devices may not work properly, leaving you vulnerable to injury.
Even low-speed crashes can lead to injuries. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute reports that over half of all speeding-related accidents occur at speeds under 55 miles per hour. Many variables can affect the type and severity of potential injuries including the speed and location of the accident as well as whether the type of vehicle the driver is in and whether they were wearing a seatbelt. Common injuries in speeding accidents include:
- Whiplash: Whiplash is one of the most common injuries in a motor vehicle accident. This injury usually occurs when a driver’s vehicle is hit from behind. The impact of the accident causes the head to suddenly whip backward and then forward. This strains the neck. Minor whiplash can cause moderate pain and resolve on its own within a few days. In more serious cases, the accident may cause damage to the spinal discs.
- Traumatic brain injury: The American Association of Neurological Surgeons defines a traumatic brain injury as a “blow to the head or a penetrating injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” The severity of a TBI can range from a minor concussion to a persistent vegetative state. Motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of TBIs. A traumatic brain injury can lead to headaches, memory loss, sensory issues, and breathing issues, among others.
- Broken bones: Broken bones are common in motor vehicle accidents. The traumatic force of the body against another object can fracture or crush your bones. Common injuries include clavicle fractures, leg fractures, facial fractures, and rib fractures.
- Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord relays messages from the brain to other areas of the body. When the spinal cord is injured it can lead to serious, long-term consequences. Spinal cord injuries often result in paralysis. Depending on the location of the injury, a victim may have full or partial paralysis.
- Soft tissue damage: Soft tissue damage can include cuts, burns, and other abrasions. In minor cases, medical treatment is not necessary. In severe cases, these injuries can cause substantial pain and leave permanent scarring.
Staying Safe on the Roads
You can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by watching your speed and avoiding speeding drivers. Some of the steps that you can take to stay safe on the road include:
- Plan ahead: There’s no excuse to speed. Being a little late is better than not making it there at all. Planning ahead can limit the temptation to speed when you are late. Leave early, plan your route, and check the traffic report before you leave. It is also helpful to check the weather report and allow for extra time in inclement conditions.
- Use cruise control: It’s easy to “zone out” after driving several miles on the road. When a driver is on the road for long periods of time, they can easily exceed the speed limit without realizing it. Cruise control can help you maintain your speed and stay safe on the road.
- Move over: Speeding drivers are notorious for following too close. When another driver follows too close, they increase their risk of running into you if you have to stop. Always be aware of speeding drivers around you. If you see a driver following too close, move over to allow them to pass.
- Stay alert: One of the best things you can do to stay safe on the road is to be aware of your surroundings. Be alert for pedestrians, animals, other motorists, and changing road conditions.
- Mix things up: As we mentioned earlier, taking the same route every day can make you complacent. Consider changing your route every now and then. Doing so will force your brain to actively engage and can cause you to be more conscious about the way you drive.
- Buckle up: High-speed crashes can cause serious injury. When a driver is thrown from their vehicle, the risk of death increases exponentially. Your seatbelt is designed to protect you in the event of an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, 49 percent of drivers killed in fatal accidents were not wearing a seat belt.
Know When to Bring in Legal Help
Any accident can scare anyone. A high-speed accident can derail your life. Look for a car accident lawyer who understands the emotional and financial burden a speeding accident can have on you and your family.
If you or a loved one were injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may qualify for financial compensation. Florida’s statute of limitations limits the amount of time you have to file a personal injury claim. To learn more about your legal rights, contact an experienced Florida motor vehicle accident lawyer.