What role does speed play in traf­fic crashes?


SAFE SPEEDS are rel­a­tive, so each driver must be aware of the cur­rent driv­ing con­di­tions and the posted speed lim­its, which typ­i­cally are set based on a road­way’s de­sign. Speed­ing may get you there faster, or it may keep you from get­ting there at all!

Speed in­flu­ences traf­fic crashes in four ba­sis ways:

1. Speed re­duces the re­ac­tion time driv­ers need to avoid crashes, which not only in­creases the like­li­hood of crash­ing but also in­creases its sever­ity.

2. Speed in­creases the dis­tance needed to stop a ve­hi­cle. Speed­ing driv­ers may not be able to judge dis­tances ac­cu­rately, which puts other ve­hi­cles and pedes­tri­ans at greater risk. Driv­ers who run red lights are likely to be speed­ing

3. Higher speeds re­sult in higher risks of in­jury or death in a traf­fic crash, be­cause ve­hi­cles and their oc­cu­pants in mo­tion have ki­netic en­ergy that is dis­si­pated in a crash.

4. Higher speeds re­duce the abil­ity of ve­hi­cles and re­straint sys­tems to pro­tect oc­cu­pants. Crash sever­ity in­creases dis­pro­por­tion­ately with ve­hi­cle speed, so a frontal im­pact at 35 mph is one-third more vi­o­lent than one at 30 mph. While driv­ers of all ages and both sexes speed at one time or an­other, high­speed driv­ers tend to be young males. At all ages male driv­ers are more likely than fe­male driv­ers to be in­volved in speed-re­lated fa­tal crashes.

What is con­sid­ered a safe speed?

There are sev­eral fac­tors that de­ter­mine a safe speed. A road­way’s de­sign, such as a nar­row two-lane by­way or a mod­ern con­trolled high­way, whether the sur­round­ing area is ur­ban or ru­ral, cur­rent weather con­di­tions, and how well or poorly the road has been main­tained all com­bine to af­fect safe speeds on a daily or even an hourly ba­sis. Even in the most ideal driv­ing con­di­tions, high speeds can be­come dan­ger­ous.

A driver speed­ing along on a straight stretch of high­way on the south coast might feel that 75 mph is safe – un­til a cow sud­denly ap­pears on the road and the driver has no time to re­act. Or driver speed­ing along a sim­i­lar road­way on the north coast might be­lieve a high speed is safe – un­til last night’s lack of sleep sud­denly over­whelms the driver who nods off for a se­cond and

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