Kill Your Speed
The word, “speeding”, means exceeding the posted speed limit and driving too fast for conditions. Unfortunately, many people do not view obeying speed limits as an important way to avoid crashes. Speed limits are the maximum speeds allowed by law. They are not necessarily safe speeds at all times. Speed is a major risk factor for road traffic crashes. Speed increases are directly correlated with both the risk of crashes and the severity of consequences. Higher speeds increase the likelihood of a crash and the severity of any injuries and or property damages that may result from one. This is because, as speed increases, so does the distance travelled during the driver’s reaction time and the distance needed to stop. As average traffic speed increases, so too does the likelihood of a crash. If a crash does happen, the risk of death and serious injury is greater at higher speeds, especially for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. In a crash, the higher the speed, the greater the amount of mechanical (kinetic) energy that must be absorbed by the impact. Hence, there is more likelihood of serious injury. Male and young drivers are more likely to speed, while other factors likely to influence speed include alcohol, road layout, traffic density and weather conditions.
Ease of mobility must not be at the expense of safety. Easy, quick and relatively low-cost travel is important for people’s work and personal lives, and at a national level, it is important for economic growth and development. Safety must lie at the heart of speed management, and yet governments and those involved in speed management face challenges when balancing mobility and safety. Shifting the emphasis towards safety is at the heart of the “Safe System” approach – a system that underpins successful speed management. Within this framework, the speed limit on a section of a road takes account of safety, mobility and environmental considerations, as well as the impact of the speed on the quality of life for people living along the road. Where motorized traffic mixes with pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, it is recommended that the speed limit be under 30 km/h. This is due to the vulnerability of these road users: an adult pedestrian has less than a 20% chance of dying if struck by a car at less than 50 km/h but almost a 60% risk of dying if hit at 80 km/h.
Below, we share some of the common facts about speeding:
- Speed reduces the amount of available time needed to avoid a crash or to stop the vehicle. At high speed, you need more room to stop. In an emergency, high speed increases the chances of skids, roll-overs and serious injury, and reduces your chances of negotiation and escape;
- Speed extends the distance a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation;
- Speed reduces the ability of the driver to steer safely around curves or objects on the road;
- Speed increases the likelihood of a crash;
- Speed increases the severity of a crash.
To ensure safety, drivers are encouraged to take note of the following checklist:
- Check your speedometer – always make sure you are travelling within the specified speed limit;
- Adjust to the conditions – for safety reasons, you must adjust your speed to suit the weather, light, road, traffic conditions and your ability to control the vehicle;
- Increase your distance – when you are travelling at a higher speed, increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front, taking into consideration the extra time you will need if you stop suddenly;
- Consider other drivers – the speed you travel at needs to take into account other drivers on the road, and what actions you may need to take to allow for their behaviour and mistakes;
- Trucks and buses need longer stopping distances – never cut into their safe following distance gap.
During this month of April 2023, the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe conducted the Easter and Independence holiday campaign whose theme was “Leave Sooner, Drive Slower, Live Longer, Together We Can Save Lives”. The theme speaks volumes with regards to the need to avoid speeding. In fact, the public needs to be made more aware of the dangers of speeding. If speeding is to be combated more effectively, we would have to devote increased resources to better enforcement, including more law officers to patrol the roads and we must support technological advances such as video cameras to target aggressive speeding drivers. We would also have to consider the effective development of speed calming devices in road engineering.
It is crucial to remember that drinking and driving fast can both be fatal. Previous studies conducted in the USA have shown that a significantly higher proportion of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding than sober drivers involved in fatal crashes. Additionally, where speeding and alcohol use are common, young male drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal collisions. The “5Es” strategy, which stands for Education, Enforcement, Empowerment, Engineering, and Evaluation, is often used in speed-related crash reduction efforts. However, it is the driver’s responsibility to adhere to the rules of the road and to make sure that all passengers are safely seated and belted.
The speed at which you are traveling determines how likely you are to lose control of your vehicle and how long it will take you to stop. This is a constant rule of physics. When you are speeding, it is very challenging to avoid a collision because you have less time to react to the unexpected. Speeding endangers everyone on the road. It is, indeed, a major contributory factor in crashes that cause serious injury, death or property damage. Let us all remember that speed limits are set for a reason and exceeding them is illegal.