Just a Few Miles Over the Speed Limit — Is it Dangerous or Acceptable?

Once a person has been driving for a few years, and maybe had no crashes, it’s okay to go a few miles an hour over the posted speed limit, right?  And the police don’t give out tickets if you’re doing just 35 mph in a 30 limit or 45 in a 40 limit, so it’s got to be safe, yeh?

Many people try to justify a bit of extra speed like this with their opinion that it’s safe and of no consequence, or they are frankly just oblivious to it because “everybody else does the same all the time,” but sadly — in fact tragically — these myths are the opposite of the truth.

A major part of the problem lies in the laws of physics — the only laws, so the old joke goes, that nobody can break — so if you don’t like what follows, blame Einstein and Newton and all of their pals.

A key fact is that the faster an object is moving, the harder it is to stop it.  But this is where those rules of physics come in.  A normal, non-scientific person would assume that if something is going twice as fast now as it was say a minute ago, it will be twice as hard to stop it, right?  But it doesn’t work like that.  At twice the speed, an object is much more than twice as hard to stop and as a rough rule-of-thumb a vehicle takes about four times as far to stop under braking if its speed has been doubled.

The other problem involves a driver’s best reaction time.  Straight away, though, here’s another sad fact:  Most drivers don’t concentrate properly on their driving so very few can use their “best” reactions in an emergency.  So whether a person has good, medium or bad reactions, they will take the same time  as they usually do to react in any risky situation that they were not expecting to occur, and if a vehicle is travelling at twice its previous speed it will obviously cover twice the distance while the driver is in the process of reacting, so a lot of extra ground has been lost and there is now that much less time and distance in which to stop before hitting the thing up ahead that has caused the driver to brake.

Most people can do well on an actual test of reaction time.  Someone says something like “press the button each time the light comes on,” and you do.  But the problem is that you know that the light is going to come on and so you are ready, with your finger on the button and muscles tensed.  But real life, and in particular driving, are not like that.  Drivers are typically far too complacent (e.g. “I’ve been driving for thirty years and never had a crash.” Or “I’ve driven this road a thousand times; I know every bump and twist.”)

And virtually all drivers are distracted, too.  Yes, far too many are crazy enough to talk on cell phones — even hands-free phone conversations significantly increase the risk of a serious crash but it’s not possible to enforce this so no law enforcement agencies have tried to do so — and others even text while driving, which is a form of homicidal or suicidal lunacy.  But these aren’t the only issues:  Anybody driving while thinking about anything other than their driving at any moment is a distracted driver; there’s no getting away from that fact, and we ALL do it.  A key difference between unsafe drivers and safer drivers is that the safer ones think only about their driving for a much larger proportion of the time, and that takes effort.  But nobody is a robot.  Nobody can concentrate at the 100 percent level for 100 percent of the time, especially on longer journeys.

So now, back to the few miles an hour over the posted speed limit:  That’s only a few MPH, right; not double the speed?  But lets see the effect.

Here’s a relatively old video showing exactly what can happen when a driver is doing 35mph in a 30mph limit.  The age of the video is irrelevant because the physics of the matter will never change. Even as better braking technology has trimmed some feet off stopping distances over the years, that still has not prevented the same effect happening; it just takes place at slightly different distances.

The next video shows a very different way of looking at the same problem, but as the speeds used are given in kilometres, here’s a conversion list for American and British readers:

  • 65 km/h = 40.6 mph
  • 60 km/h = 37.5 mph
  • 32 km/h = 20 mph
  • . 5 km/h = . 3 mph

 

So just a tiny three miles per hour difference in the initial speeds made a life-threatening 17mph difference in impact speeds.  If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will!

Finally, if you are thinking about swerving as an alternative to braking to try to avoid a crash, please don’t forget that while swerving is sometimes successful on racetracks, where everyone is ultra-alert and all travelling in one direction (although it can still fail spectacularly, too), and it might be great fun to practice skid recovery or evasive swerving on abandoned runways and empty parking lots,  the fact is that on real roads there are often vehicles coming the other way.  Do you want to hit one and die?  Trees and ditches can easily kill you, too.  And then there can be pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists nearby.  Do you want to kill them (and then pretend to the officer that it was somehow an unavoidable “accident” rather than a dangerous choice of your own speed)?

Take a look at the Golden Rule of Safe Driving.

If this article sounds as though I’m preaching at readers or lecturing you, I apologize, but as a retired traffic patrol police officer who has attended too many fatal and serious-injury crashes, and also had to tell too many devastated loved ones that their husband, wife, daddy, mommy, brother, sister, son or daughter is never coming home again, then — believe me — I really hope that you will take the above facts to heart and make sure that neither your own family nor anyone else’s will ever have to hear that news all because you were doing a few miles an hour over the speed limit.

It happens every day without fail!  About 30 out of the average 100-plus highway deaths every single day in the USA involve someone driving over the posted speed limit or at a speed that was inappropriately too fast for the circumstances, even if that was within the limit.

 

 

Converting the USA’s preferred ‘VMT’ rate of road deaths to the ‘Billion VKT’ rate used by the rest of the world shows a shockingly poor result for America

In monitoring its road safety standards, the USA prefers to use “deaths per 100 million Vehicle Miles Travelled” [VMT] rate, rather than the measure used by every other country, which is the “deaths per billion vehicle kilometres” [billion VKT] rate.

Does this matter?  Does it make any difference?  The answer is yes, it certainly does, even if only psychologically.  For anyone who does not know much about road safety it means that America’s rate cannot readily be compared with the rates in other countries.  This is a pity because frankly America’s rate of deaths measured against distance travelled has long been, or at least should have long been, a national embarrassment which the powers-that-be apparently do not want the American people to understand, and the tiny numbers that are used to indicate each year’s VMT rate make it look like there’s no problem at all.  But this apparently deliberate keeping people in the dark needs to stop.

Photograph of distracted rider and pedestrain, plus none-use of a crash helmet..
Some dangerous problems are found in many countries: distracted drivers, riders and pedestrians, none-use of seatbelts or crash helmets, etc. (Copyright image.)

So, first of all, let’s get the math out of the way that allows the VMT rate to be converted to the standard, global rate, in order that everyone can understand the situation.

Firstly, one billion kilometres is 621,371,192 miles, so divide that by 100 million and the answer is 6.214,  so whenever you see the VMT rate published, you just multiply it by 6.214 and you will have the internationally-recognized billion kilometre [billion VKT] rate.  Then, and only then, can you truly compare America’s road safety performance with the other ~29 developed nations of the world that along with the USA are members of the OECD*.

If you now look at Latest Multi-National VMT Road Death Rates – USA Makes Least Progress 1990-2015, you will see that not only does the USA lie in an extremely disappointing 18th place out of the 23 applicable countries for the year 2015 (the current latest figures) and has a billion-VKT death rate that is more than double the rate of the leading nations, but also — when the results are measured from the 25 years from 1990-2015, the USA has made dramatically less progress in cutting deaths than any other applicable country on the list.

From the figures, it can be seen that, if the USA could match the current, top billion-VKT results (i.e. Norway), approximately 22,000 lives would have been saved in road crashes in America in 2015 and even more in 2016 and 2017, because the number of deaths is increasing, year-on-year.  [Note:  This is a different result to the lives that could be saved if the U.S. were able to match the leading nations’ per capita rates, but given the way that countries’ rates do vary quite widely when using the various different metrics, this situation is not unusual.]

 

Footnote

*OECD — Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

 

Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016

Figures released by the USDOT on October 6, 2017, show that 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from calendar year 2015.  This followed an inaccurate estimation earlier this year by the National Safety Council [NSC] that the figure would be approximately 40,200.

In the context of the NSC’s miscalculation, the lower, more recent, and obviously more accurate figure from the USDOT and NHTSA is a relief but the situation is still very bad news.  Apart from the 5.6% increase in fatalities from 2015-2016, the fact is that since 2014 the number of deaths on America’s roads and highways has soared swiftly upwards from 32,744 to 37,461, a two-year increase of 14.4 percent, representing almost 5,000 “extra” deaths in 2016 alone.

Photograph of two roadside memorials, on opposite sides of a rural road, and from two separate crashes.
Not one but two memorials, for two separate crashes on either side of this road at this one location in Illinois. Photo: Copyright 2012.

Continue reading “Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016”

Multi-National ‘Per Capita’ Road Death Rates for 2015 (as published in Oct. 2017)

Rate(a) . Country

  1. 2.3. . . ..Norway
  2. 2.7. . . . Sweden
  3. 2.8 . . . .United Kingdom
  4. 3.1. . . . .Denmark
  5. 3.1. . . . .Switzerland
  6. 3.5. . . . Ireland
  7. 3.6. . . . Spain
  8. 3.7. . . . Netherlands
  9. 3.8. . . . Israel
  10. 3.8. . . . Japan
  11. 4.3. . . . Germany
  12. 4.9. . . . Finland
  13. 4.9. . . . Iceland (b)
  14. 5.1. . . . .Australia
  15. 5.2. . . . Canada
  16. 5.4. . . . France
  17. 5.6. . . . Austria
  18. 5.6. . . . Italy
  19. 5.7. . . . Portugal
  20. 5.8. . . . Slovenia
  21. 6.4. . . . Luxembourg (b)
  22. 6.5. . . . Belgium
  23. 6.5. . . . Hungary
  24. 6.9. . . . New Zealand
  25. 7.0. . . . Czech Republic
  26. 7.3. . . . Greece
  27. 7.7. . . . Poland
  28. 8.3. . . . Lithuania
  29. 8.4. . . . Serbia
  30. 9.1. . . . Korea
  31. 10.9. . . United States (c)
  32. 11.1.. . . .Morocco
  33. 11.9. . . .Chile
  34. 12.4 . . .Argentina (d)
  35. 13.3. . . Mexico
  36. 14.5. . . Cambodia
  37. 14.6. . . Uruguay
  38. 21.5. . . Malaysia
  39. 23.6. . .South Africa

Source: ITF / OECD  (colored groupings added by ADoNA)

Footnotes:

(a)  Rate of road deaths per 100,000 members of the national population

(b)  Iceland and Luxembourg experience the most inconsistent annual rates due to their very small population sizes

(c)  Statistics published by the USDOT on October 6, 2017, show that during 2016 US road deaths increased by a further 5.6 percent and the per capita rate of deaths rose to 11.59 — See: Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016

(d)  2014 data (OECD)

Also see: Latest Multi-National VMT Road Death Rates – USA Makes Least Progress 1990-2015

Numbering in the left-hand column is only for easy reference. Countries with identical rates should not be separated or ranked by this.

Green text: A rate under 3

Orange text: A rate less than double that of the leading country

Purple text: A rate 2-4 times greater than that of the leading country

Red text: A ‘per capita’ rate more than four times higher than that of the leading country

 

Ultra-Smooth and Ultra-Safe Driver Training for Chauffeurs

Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] has trained chauffeurs for maximum safety and maximum smoothness in their driving, from Las Vegas to Canada.

Photograph of a Mercedes 550S sedan, in use for chauffeur training by Advanced Drivers of North America for chauffeur driver-safety training
A Mercedes 550S in use for Advanced Drivers of North America’s chauffeur safety and smooth driver training. (Copyright image.)

Continue reading “Ultra-Smooth and Ultra-Safe Driver Training for Chauffeurs”

The British Pushed Euro-NCAP Standards Forward but Now There’s a Problem

David Ward, the Secretary General of the Global New Car Assessment Programme, has written an excellent article outlining the history and challenges of the U.S. NCAP and Euro-NCAP that is extremely well worth reading for anyone with a serious interest in vehicle safety or in road safety in general.

Far Too Many Pedestrians are Killed in the USA but it Could be Improved

It is a very saddening fact that pedestrian safety on roads and highways in the USA is well below the standard it should be, and far too many people are killed as a result.

The following was published by NHTSA on Facebook on 7 September, 2017:

  NHTSA  7 hrs
Pedestrian fatalities totaled 5,376 in 2015, up 10% from 2014. Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
Photo of pedstrians on a busy crosswalk
NHTSA image

Continue reading “Far Too Many Pedestrians are Killed in the USA but it Could be Improved”

Bicycling Deaths in the USA Increased by 12.2 Percent in 2015

“BICYCLING DEATHS are on the rise [in the USA], a new report says, as is the average age of the victims…

Photograph of a car passing a bicycle at a bad location on a mountain curve.
Cyclists are often passed badly by reckless or unthinking drivers.  Copyright image.

Continue reading “Bicycling Deaths in the USA Increased by 12.2 Percent in 2015”

Terrible New Record Number of Pedestrian Deaths in California

Vulnerable Road Users [VRU] include pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.  Among these, pedestrians are certainly in very serious danger in California.

Just 10 years ago, 17 percent of California’s roadside [sic] fatalities involved pedestrians. That number has since grown to 25 percent…. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, preliminary results show a record-high 900 people died [in 2016] across the Golden State – an increase [of more than five percent] from 852 in 2015.

Many experts consider that the use of smartphones, etc., both by drivers and other road users is a major factor in such elevated numbers of road deaths.

There is an interesting, detailed article on this, from the Desert Sun.