Researchers at Purdue University say the majority of drivers have no problem going 5, 10 or even 20 mph over the speed limit and see no risk in doing so.
–Wired.com, November 14, 2008
You say you’re not afraid to drive fast? Then here’s a little thought experiment for you: imagine what it would feel like after you drove your car off the roof of a 12-story building. Think we’re crazy to ask? Then consider the fact that the force of the impact when you hit the ground would be about the same as having a auto collision driving on level ground at 65 miles (or 100 kilometers) per hour.
Of course, no one in his or her right mind would drive a car off a 12-story building. So the question is: why would anyone drive at 65 miles per hour? The point here isn’t to try to paralyze drivers with such fear that they never go that fast. The point is to re-instill a healthy respect for the forces at work when driving at speeds the human body, by itself, isn’t designed to cope with. The hope is that, being aware of the comparison, from now on you will use all the proper techniques to make (legally) fast driving as safe as possible.
Extra speed makes a bigger difference
Say you were to smack into something – a fire hydrant or lamp post – at just 25 miles per hour. It may not kill you, but your 5-mph bumper and entire front end would look pretty darned bad because even at that speed the forces engendered by the average 4,000-
pound vehicle are pretty fierce.
Now say you were going 35 miles per. How much worse would it be? Surprise! It’s not 40 percent worse (you’re going 40 percent faster). It would be almost twice as bad. That’s because the force of a collision increases exponentially with speed. At 50 miles per hour, the forces are four times stronger than at 25, and at 75 they’re NINE TIMES more violent.
Your odds of a collision and serious injury zoom, too
In 2006, the average driver had a 5 percent chance of being involved in a crash. A study presented at the University of California at Berkeley last year found that for every 1 percent increase in speed, a driver’s chance of a collision increases by 2 percent, the chance of serious injury increases by 3 percent, and the chance of a fatality increases by about 4 percent.
Going faster than the surrounding traffic has even worse consequences, the same study found: driving at 80 miles per hour on a road where traffic is moving at 70 increases your chances of an auto crash by 31 percent, a crash with an injury by 49 percent and a fatality by 71 percent.
Bottom line: obey the speed limit, adjust your speed for bad weather and traffic, always be alert, and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicles around you. And remember: as a rule, slower is better.