Speed kills. We’ve known that for a long time, but it doesn’t seem to slow us down. Figures show that for more than two decades, speeding has played a role in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. In 2014, that equated to 9,262 lives lost in the United States in speeding-related crashes.
One of the ‘big three’ causes of road crashes (along with distracted driving and drunk driving), speed is a risk factor that has its own challenges. The main challenge being there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Or, more accurately, a ‘one speed fits all’ solution. With distracted driving, the message is simple: don’t drive distracted. It’s similar with drunk driving: don’t touch a drop before getting behind the wheel.
It’s a little less clear-cut with speed, because it’s not enough to say: don’t break the speed limit. While that is one of the messages, it’s not just ‘speeding’ that kills; it’s inappropriate speed too. And it’s impossible to issue blanket guidance on when a certain speed is appropriate and when it isn’t. Road conditions, traffic density, weather conditions and poor visibility are just some of the factors that could make it unsuitable to drive at the speed limit.
The Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, taking place 8-14 May, is focusing on speed and what can be done to address this key risk factor for road traffic deaths and injuries. The campaign website, launched earlier this year in advance of the Week, lists some of the proven strategies to address speed:
- Building or modifying roads to include features to calm traffic
- Establishing speed limits to the function of each road
- Enforcing speed limits
- Installing in-vehicle technologies
- Raising awareness about the dangers of speeding
Put another way, to manage and reduce speeds we need safe vehicles, safe roads and safe people.
In a Speed fact sheet, the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) references several studies to highlight key messages such as ‘Setting and enforcing speed limits is one of the most effective measures in reducing road traffic injuries’ and ‘Targeted social marketing campaigns, when conducted together with effective law enforcement, can help to reduce excessive speeding’.
Within the fact sheet, GRSP recommends that ‘Setting and enforcing national speed limits is an important step in reducing speed’ and ‘Penalties for excessive speed need to be set at levels that are serious enough to deter people from breaking the law and must be applied consistently and fairly’.
But, in conjunction with the proven strategies and recommendations, we need to do one more thing: change attitudes towards speed.
This leads us to an increasingly familiar figure…94%. That is, that 94% of road incidents can be attributed in some way to driver decisions and attitudes behind the wheel.
It’s these attitudes that we must change to see long-term, significant reductions in speed-related collisions. Speed-related deaths. Speed-related injuries that change lives forever. Even if we wish to see a reduction in speeding tickets or penalty points for speeding and subsequent increases to insurance premiums. We won’t reduce a desire to speed until we successfully change driver attitude.
So, as we approach the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, perhaps the question should be more than ‘How do we slow drivers down?’. Instead, ‘How do we change drivers’ attitudes so they choose the right speed?’.
We know that bringing down speeds dramatically decreases the number of collisions. In fact, the UN campaign website states that: A 5% cut in speed can result in a 30% reduction in the number of fatal road traffic crashes. We CAN reduce speed related incidents if we can slow people down. As discussed, there are many proven ways to address speed and several recommendations to help manage and reduce speeds. But, on top of this there is something every single one of us can do to help tackle the problem: address our own attitude towards speed.
What is your opinion on how we should address the problem of speed? Do you avoid speeding – and do you have any advice for others?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Find out about eDriving’s One More Second 2-hour defensive driving course which teaches advanced driving skills, retrains bad habits and encourages the right attitudes behind the wheel.