It sounds so straightforward – when you are driving at a faster speed, you have significantly less time to identify possible hazards and react to your surroundings. You also know that it is going to take you far longer to bring a vehicle to a complete stop when traveling at higher speeds, and it makes sense that if you are involved in an accident – the likelihood of the injuries being more severe at higher speeds increase as well. Yet when it comes to driving, most people still go over the speed limit.
Facts and statistics about speed in auto accidents
The faster a driver is going, the more it is going to increase the braking and thinking distance. Someone traveling at a higher speed is going to cover more ground than someone who is going at a lower speed when it comes to noticing a potential hazard and reacting accordingly. The calculator (which you can try here) gives you a realistic notion of how much higher speeds affect longer thinking distances.
Speed limits are more than a definition of the legal maximum speed. These speed limits also help drivers understand the dangers of each road. Speeding leads to thousands of serious accidents and injuries every single year. In fact, excessive speed contributed to:
- 24 percent of collisions where someone is killed
- 14 percent of all injury collisions
- 15 percent of crashes resulting in a serious injury
Almost 66 percent of all crashes where a driver or passenger was injured or killed happened on roads where the speed limit is 30 mph or less.
Our brain’s ability to react to changing situations
Most people suggest that ‘reaction time’ in the event of an accident is a single step. However, three different factors go into our brain’s reaction time. These include mental processing time, movement time, and mechanical response time.
- Mental processing time – This is the time it takes for our brain to perceive the situation and decide what response is suitable. We can break this up into the following:
- Sensation – we notice something
- Perception/recognition – We identify the sensation, whether it is a pedestrian in the road or brake lights
- Situational awareness – Putting the sensation in the right context (in this situation, driving). Our brain is asking, “Will I hit this object or person if I do not stop or move out of the way?”
- Response selection – We decide what of the possible responses would likely have the best result
After that is complete, we still have to deal with movement time (how long does it take before our body can carry out the action our brain selected), and the mechanical response time (this is how long it takes the car to perform that maneuver, such as steering or braking).
As you can see, there are a number of different factors before we can even decide whether to brake or try to steer out of the way. When we travel at much faster speeds, this gives out brain far less time to respond.
Driving smarter by reducing distractions and speed
There are countless other distractions on the road that people have to contend with, from other drivers, to smartphones, to animals crossing the road, to construction work. As a parent and a lawyer, I am all too aware of the fact that one moment of bad judgment or inattention can lead to potentially disastrous results. Even though accidents are ultimately inevitable, we can better deal with potential hazards by driving the speed limit.