It is a familiar scene during prime-time television: A young woman is shown driving a red Mitsubishi Eclipse down a country road at very high speed. The woman is -on her way to her grandparents’ home, and the car is going so fast that it makes the house rumble when she arrives. Meanwhile, the announcer declares: “It’s uncommonly fast, and fun to drive, and it makes quite an entrance.”
The steady stream of advertisements like these, which continue to promote dangerous driving behavior despite enormous publicity about the epidemic of aggressive driving, has shocked many members of the Partnership for Safe Driving. In March 1999, the Partnership’s public policy committee sent letters to the CEOs of 14 major auto-makers in the United States, urging them to stop promoting speeding and reckless driving in their television commercials. The committee expressed particular concern about the potential of these ads to influence the behavior of young drivers.
Speeding has been implicated as a contributing factor in about one-third of all fatal motor-vehicle crashes. In addition, increased attention has been given to other unsafe driving behavior — running red lights, tailgating, cutting other drivers off, etc. Which may lead to crashes. However, very little information is available on when, where, and under what conditions drivers engage in speeding and other unsafe driving actions or behaviors; nor is there adequate information on the types of drivers who engage in these behaviors.
Speed reduces the amount of available time needed to avoid a crash, increases the likelihood of crashing and increases the severity of a crash once it occurs. The public needs to be made more aware of the dangers of speeding. If we are to combat this dangerous, life-threatening behavior, we must devote increased resources to better enforcement, including more law enforcement officers to patrol the highways, and we must support technological advances, such as video cameras, to target aggressive, speeding drivers.
Speeding is defined as travelling faster than the posted speed limit or travelling too fast for the road condition – even at speeds under the posted limit. The risk of being involved in a crash increases with the speed a vehicle is being driven because there is less time to react, less control of the vehicle and the distance needed to stop is longer. The risk of a crash in a 60km/h zone doubles with every 5km/h above the limit. That is increasing the speed from 65 to 70km/h doubles one’s chance of a crash. The higher the speed a vehicle is travelling when it hits a pedestrian the greater the chance of a fatality occurring. The impact on a person in a crash at 60km/h is equivalent to falling from a four story building, while the impact at 100km/h equals falling from a 12-story building. In general speed-related crashes are greater on weekends (both holiday and non-holiday) as they account for just under half of the speeding related crashes in 1996.