Speeding is not inherently dangerous

Looks like today’s my day to post driving-related threads.

In this thread, I posted about draconian DUI laws.

The subject of speeding promptly came up.

I consider speeding to be an issue, but not one that’s equivalent to driving drunk.

And it’s an issue because I think that neither speeding (driving over the posted speed limit) nor speed (driving what some consider fast) in and of themselves cause accidents, fatal or otherwise.

People who can drive well at faster speeds should be able to do so.

[ul][li]I believe that to safely drive at any speed, you need training and experience. Some people simply don’t have the training and experience to drive as fast as they like.[/li][li]I believe that your car must be in proper condition for you to drive as fast as you like. That means the usual maintenance, as well as things that are more strongly affected by faster speeds, like tires.[/li][/ul]

There are several organizations trying to get the message out about unreasonable speed limits. Take a look if you like:

[ul][li]Reasonable Drivers Unanimous[/li][li]National Motorists Association[/li][li]National Coalition for the Abolition of Speed Limits (Yes, I know that will never happen.)[/li][li]An article from Car and Driver magazine about how the statistics on speeding are collected[/li][/ul]

Do you think that exceeding the posted speed limit is inherently dangerous? If so, why?

Do you disinguish between speeding in residential areas and speeding on highways? If not, why not?

Also, do you agree or disagree that some people, via experience and ability of vehicle, can drive faster more safely than other people?


  1. Not in itself, subject to the caveats you’ve already outlined.

  2. Yes, I distinguish between them in the amount and type of distractions requiring either faster reflexes or a slower speed.

  3. Agreed.

But – I don’t believe it is practical to have variable speed limits. I don’t believe that people who are generally better drivers will always be better drivers (anyone can be tired, or ill, or distracted). I don’t believe that you can apply laws inconsistently, however rational the basis, without risking a host of costly and time-wasting court challenges to every speeding fine issued (“Hey, I think I’m a better driver…”) and I’m not sure how you could effectively assess a driver’s ability at speed. What if they change vehicles? Would a retest be required?

Well I agree that speed is not inherently a problem, I spent 2 years driving ambulance and I believe that via my training and experience I can safely drive faster than other people. However I do not because the same people who cannot handle the decision making at high speeds cannot properly react to MY higher speeds.

BUT assuming that the defensive issues were irrelevant, how would these things be regulated? Would you apply and test for an “advanced license”, DOT exams required? driving tests at every licence renewal? Vehicle inspections for “proper maintenance”, would we really want that much additional attention from big brother to get them off our case about getting to work 2-3 minutes faster?

Given the conditions in which a fast driver must operate, yes, speeding is dangerous. Among those conditions are:

  1. Many US highways, even parts of the Interstate, are not designed for high speeds - among the shortcomings: sight distances, vertical curves (hills, overpasses) and horizontal curves, obstructions close to the road.
  2. There are many drivers out there who don’t drive fast, thus “getting in the way” of faster drivers. A traffic engineer once told me that it isn’t speed that is the problem, but the difference in speed between the fast driver and slower drivers (or trees).

Perhaps a solution would be highways, or physically separate lanes on highways, that the fast crowd could pay a toll to use, then they could go as fast as they want. The fast-road would have signs, before the toll plaza, announcing it is for high speed drivers, so any slow-pokes who got on would be warned (course, they’d still be a hazard).

Speeding in residential areas is very bad. Many pedestrians, especially children.

Do you know anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a good driver??

The problem that you don’t seem to see is that there’s often a number of factors that go into ‘causing’ accidents. Some we have control over (how fast we drive, how much alcohol we consume, how much rest we’ve had), others we have little to no control over (distractions, the weather, current emotional issues etc). Some times, you know, the posted speed is way to fast (I had my car totalled by a guy going the posted speed limit - course, the road was covered in ice - he was cited as being the cause of the accident). THe idea is that we should minimize those factors we do have control over, to minimize the number of potential accidents.

So, you would have us ‘allow’ good drivers the right to go faster than posted limits. Apparently, there’d be some system by which the police could ascertain who was driving and their own individual acceptable posted speed? Would we have little charts personally made out for us? (“well, ms. wring, with your driving history, you can exceed the speed limit by 10% as long as you’ve not had more than 2 beers in the prior 3 hours, had adequate rest and are not driving on ice or in the mountains, since you have little experience in mountainous driving”)

The roads are for all of our benefit. Some of us have earned the privelege to drive. some have had it taken away-generally for things that they had control over.

We have laws regarding the road’s proper use to benefit all. I have no problem with that.


The driving laws exist as they do because we all are out there together, and we need rules that help everybody drive together. If you are alone, that’s one thing. But you aren’t. You are out there with stupid kids, blind grandmas, drunks and plain fools.

I have a theory about how to drive the safest way possible: imagine that you are completely invisible to almost everyone around you, and act accordingly. There are a few other people who CAN see you, but they are all cops.


Jeyen said:

No. At least not on the highways.

Yes. Residential areas have a lot more possibilities that things could go wrong: the kid who runs in the street, the car pulling out of its driveway, the stoplight that turns red, etc. That said, there are still some ridiculously low speed limits in some “residential” areas.

Yes, of course.

Stoid said:

Um, okay. Then get the stupid kids, blind grandmas, drunks, and other plain fools off the roads and let those of us who know how to drive, drive.

**jeyen wrote:

And it’s an issue because I think that neither speeding (driving over the posted speed limit) nor speed (driving what some consider fast) in and of themselves cause accidents, fatal or otherwise.**

I think that depends on the situation, where would you be driving over the speed limit? The freeway or on surface streets, especially in suburban neighborhoods?

Also there are road conditions to consider; will you be speeding in bad weather (heavy rain, snow, ice, fog, etc?)

Finally, why the need to speed? Are you speeding because you’re late getting somewhere or do you simply like to go fast, enjoying the rush?

I haven’t seen many people who can drive well at NORMAL speeds.

Most people speeding decide that signaling, slowing down at yellow lights, not riding everyone’s ass, and so on are all things that slow them down so they skip on those, which is what screws everyone over. I have no problem if you’re scooting along twice as fast as me (hey, if you lose control and hit a tree, I’ll be nice and safe way behind you going the speed limit) if they’d have the courtesy and intelligence to at least signal when they’re going to cut in front of me so they can shave off that all-important 12 seconds. If I know what you’re going to do, I can get the hell out of the way, but if your speeding along randomly shifting through the crowd of cars playing a big game of Frogger, then you’re going to irritate the hell out of me.

If you’re in that big a hurry, leave your house sooner…If your wife is having her baby or a friend is threatening to commit suicide or something, I can understand it, but if you’re just too dumb to set your alarm 10 minutes earlier, then don’t expect a whole lot of sympathy. :slight_smile:

  • Tsugumo

Are we doing your homework for you?

Adventurious82, if your question is directed to me, I ask: What in the world are you talking about? If your question is directed to someone else, you may want to elaborate.

Freyr, you ask:

Good point. I meant to include that in the OP. My bad. Speed limits are set based on the assumption of good weather. Part of driving responsibly is adapting to road conditions. I think most people would agree that driving 80 on a dry, sunny day is different from driving (or trying to drive) 80 on a snowy night.

You also ask:

Sigh. It’s not an answer, but my immediate response to this question is: Why the need to drive slowly? Driving has a purpose: to get from one place to another. Get on with it already. If you want to drive slower, fine, but get out of the way of those who don’t.

Also, this question assumes a lot about speeding and who’s doing it. If the speed limit is 60, but most people are driving 70, they’re all “speeding”. Are they all running late? Do they all simply like to go fast? Or are they more comfortable going 70 than going 60? It’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with.


And how do you suggest that be achieved?

You know, most of the time when I’ve heard people say “I know how to drive! (fast)” I’m talking to someone who has had a few accidents, or probably caused a few.

Driving fast IS inherently dangerous. Shit happens, and the faster you are going, the less reaction time you have and the more likely it is that any accident that happens will be fatal. Speed kills. It especially kills when there are only one or two people speeding while everyone else is following the limits.

I get so damned irritated at this kind of whining… "Why should I have to follow the law? I wanna go 100 MPH! WAH! I can handle the car after I’ve had a couple of beers! WAH! I know how to move in and out of traffic, WAH! I’m * special * " Bullshit. You wanna go drive fast? Go to a racetrack. The rest of us are simply trying to get from point A to point B in one piece, we shouldn’t have to worry about speeders and drunks and people who think they are so slick that it’s not a problem to shoot beack and forth between cars when they feel like it. Your need to speed is meaningless next to everyone else’s need to be safe.


I personally think the US needs roads like the autoban… where entering those roads means you know that other drivers are going to moving fast… but that ‘unlimited’ speed limit is still patrolled and the speed is limited by what is ‘reasonable’

again, I have a an admitted lack of knowledge… I know you can get a speeding ticket on the autoban, but you have to demonstrate that you were driving in an unreasonable way…

ofcourse do we really trust our pigs (err, umm, cops, I mean officers) to judge what is reasonable?

ugh such questions

If you think speeding isn’t inherently dangerous tell that to the family of deceased State Trooper Winzenread. There was a state trooper that regularly patrolled an area of interstate where I live that was killed by a speeder in broad daylight. The officer was helping a stranded motorist with their car and someone came flying down the interstate too fast to stop or swerve and hit the officer and killed him immeadetly(sp). I’m sure the driver of that car thought before that that nothing bad was going to happen. Some poor lady was widowed and a child was left fatherless because of this incident. So yes speeding IS inherently dangerous in my book and nothing will change that.

I think that the inherent danger of speed can be well summed up by the current anti-speeding adverts in the UK:

In an accident involving pedestrian childred…

…at 40mph nineteen out of twenty children will DIE
…at 30mph ten (I think) out of twenty children will DIE
…at 20mph nineteen out of twenty children will LIVE

You can have an accident at any of those speeds alright. But the consequences won’t be the same.

And yes there is a difference between speeding on the autobahn/mortorway/freeway and in a residential area. The difference is that you don’t get many children wondering out from between two parked cars on the a/m/f. You don’t get much traffic attempting to turn right or left on the a/m/f. You don’t get much traffic driving in the opposite direction to you attempting to manoever between parked cars on the a/m/f. Accidents are rare on the a/m/f (although spectacular when they happen). Accidents are all too common in residential areas, even ALLOWING for the lower speed limits.



Freyr said:

Personally, it’s because I don’t really like driving. As jeyen indicated, driving is to get you from Point A to Point B. So when I’m heading up on the interstate to visit family, and I can cut off a half hour or more from my time, I’m going to do it.

I had said to Stoid: “Um, okay. Then get the stupid kids, blind grandmas, drunks, and other plain fools off the roads and let those of us who know how to drive, drive.” She replied:

Gosh, I dunno. Maybe through enforcing traffic laws that actually endanger people rather than worrying about speed violations.

The blind grandma one is the most obvious, since they shouldn’t even have a driver’s license. As far as the other, let me give you an example. I was driving to the Homecoming football game for the university I went to. Set up midway between where I (and many other fans) live was a speed trap that nailed a bunch of us. This was on the way TO the game. They got a lot of people and raked in some dough. But did it really improve the safety of the road? Or would a trap on way HOME from the game, after a lot of people had quaffed a few beers, have been the more sensible way to protect public safety?

Great generalization. It really helps the discussion.

Oh, well, since you say so, then it’s obviously true.

Speed doesn’t kill – an inability to drive well kills. On the highway, in the open road during normal weather, there is not nearly as much chance that shit will happen such that you can’t avoid it.

I have to ask: Have you ever actually driven on a highway? If so, I can’t imagine where you got the idea that “only one or two people” speed “while everyone else is following the limits.”

I’m thrilled to hear it. But since it has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand, I have to wonder why you are bringing up such a straw man.

Earth to Stoid: We are talking about speeding. Not drunk driving. Not weaving. Speeding. Please try to keep that in mind and not argue against something that nobody here is arguing for.

Tiki God said:

Can you provide a bit more detail? Where was the officer? Where was his car (with the flashing lights)? Was it flat or hilly? Straight or curvy? Was the driver drunk or sober? Did he stick around or flee the scene? Better yet, do you have a link to a news story about this?

In response to “speed kills”, David said

I’d claim that this is disingenuous. The speed a car is traveling is very closely correlated with the probability of death in the case of an accident. How do you answer my statistic above concerning children’s deaths at various speeds David?


Various British government websites have more statistics on this than you can shake a rather large stick at, but for example this one says that[ul][li]Even in good conditions, the difference between 30mph and 35mph is an extra stopping distance of around six and a half metres, about the length of three hospital beds.[/li]
[li]Should a pedestrian or cyclist be hit at that extra speed, the force of the impact increases by over a third, making injuries far more serious and death more likely.[/li]
[li]At 35mph you are twice as likely to kill someone as you are at 30mph.[/ul]whilst this one gives results in a little more detail, for instance that [/li][quote]
Some key findings were that speed reductions on links would reduce pedestrian accidents: the speed distribution is an important determinant of accident risk with the highest speeders having the greatest effect; casualty reduction was consistent with changes in the 85th percentile speed, and with the previously established relationship of 1mph average speed reduction equalling 5% casualty reduction.
This is why I suggest that saying “speed doesn’t kill, drivers kill” is more than a little disingenuous.


Nice try, DavidB, but Stoid is more right than you are on the “speed kills” one. Not only is it pithy, but it’s more or less accurate.

You accuse her of putting up strawmen, but how about your own scarecrow here:

Put in other words, your statement is “It’s ok to drive fast because it’s unlikely something unusual will happen.” That’s a nice way to duck Stoid’s premise that if something unusual happens on the roadway, the driver going faster has less reaction time to cope with it. Interestingly, the faster driver also has more inertial forces to deal with in stopping or swerving her vehicle, which means she needs more distance than a slower driver to do so. So you need more distance to take evasive action, and you have less time to appraise and avoid the risk the faster you’re going.

This “inability to drive well” canard is just bullshit. Your argument that it is the “inability to drive well,” not speed, that increases risk suggests to me that you are a candidate for that category. A good driver would readily acknowledge that increased speed equals increased risk. The ability to “drive well” implies that you are able to ascertain numerous variables about the road, traffic, your vehicle, the weather, yourself, and so on, and to maintain a speed and distance from other vehicles that minimizes the risks to others and maximizes your ability to respond to unexpected situations. It is not some sort of magic skill that allows you to dilate time and swerve like Mario Andretti when a deer runs onto the roadway.