Approximately twenty-six percent of all car accident fatalities happened during accidents involving speeding drivers in 2019. Slightly more than 9,000 individuals died in car accidents involving speeding drivers in 2019. Drivers who speed are less likely to have the time or the ability to slow down or come to a complete stop. Collisions are more likely to occur because the force of impact rises as the speed of each vehicle increases. Speeding drivers put their own and others’ lives at risk of serious bodily injury and death.
Allowing drivers to operate vehicles at excessive rates of speed increases the rate of fatalities caused during car accidents. Drivers often drive in excess of the posted speed limit, and raising speed limits will only increase the rate at which drivers operate their vehicles. Fatal car accidents and overall driver speed increase as speed limits are increased.
Law enforcement officers who are vigilant about speeding can help reduce overall driver speeds. Speed cameras posted at intersections and other areas can reduce the total number of car accidents. Law enforcement officers also measure speed with radar and other devices.
One important factor in all car accidents is the rate of speed at which the vehicles were traveling. Excessive speeds can increase the force of impact involved in a car accident, which can produce serious bodily injuries. Speeding affects the risk of car accidents and injuries in four ways.
First, automobiles traveling at high rates of speed travel farther from the moment a driver notices an emergency to the time when the driver responds to the emergency. Second, speeding raises the total distance needed to stop an automobile after a driver applies the brakes.
Third, speed heightens the risk of a steering motion resulting in a total loss of control of the automobile. Fourth, speeding increases the total energy released during a car accident. If a car strikes an object at sixty miles per hour rather than forty miles per hour, the total energy expended during the collision increases by one hundred and twenty-five percent. A difference in speed that amounts to twenty miles per hour can have devastating consequences for those involved in car accidents.
During severe collisions, an automobile cannot hold up under the intense force of the impact, while drivers and passengers are subject to serious bodily injury and death. Cars may be traveling at such high rates of speed that seat belts and airbags cannot protect individuals inside the car from suffering severe injuries from the impact.
Impact reduction tools, safety systems, and crash prevention devices such as bollards are not fail-safe mechanisms for reducing the severity of high-speed car accidents. As drivers travel at higher rates of speed, the more likely it is that the occupants inside these vehicles will receive limited protection from safety devices.
Individual researchers have suggested that the greatest danger during car accidents is speed variation. Most of this research occurred during the 1960s. Analysts discovered that automobiles traveling slower and faster than average had higher rates of traffic accidents. The same research studies during this period suggested that speeding drivers were more likely to be involved in the most serious car accidents.
Speed variation is an important component related to the analysis of car data. However, many studies have asserted that reductions in speed variation produce fewer car accidents. Speed is the most important element in car accidents involving serious bodily injury and death. Although speed variation is an important element for researchers, speed itself is more likely to give rise to a car accident involving serious bodily injury and death.
Automobiles slow down when they turn and merge. Other vehicles traveling at higher rates of speed increase the risk of an accident when vehicles make turns or begin to merge. However, a large number of car accidents involving fatalities are single-vehicle accidents that have no relation to speed variation.
Numbers and Data
Approximately 9,500 fatalities happened during car accidents involving a speeding vehicle in 2019. These fatalities account for twenty-six percent of all car accidents in 2019. Speeding is defined as racing, driving too fast for current conditions, and driving faster than the speed limit. Across a nationwide sample of car accident data, speeding was involved in approximately nine percent of traffic accidents involving only property damage. Speeding was also a factor in approximately twelve percent of car accidents resulting in serious bodily injury or death in 2019.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the total cost of car accidents involving speeding vehicles is approximately $52 billion annually. Drivers speed on various types of roads. Roughly twenty percent of traffic failed to drive within the speed limit on freeways and interstates during 2015. These drivers drove at least ten miles per hour or more over the speed limit.
Drivers also exceed the speed limit on less congested roadways in urban areas. More drivers are now failing to stay within posted speed limits. Throughout 2007, sixteen percent of drivers exceeded speed limits on less congested roadways in cities. Also, fourteen percent of drivers on freeways and interstates failed to stay within the speed limit. As speeding becomes more common, car accidents are more likely to occur.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety surveyed drivers in 2019. The foundation discovered that approximately fifty percent of all drivers stated they had exceeded posted speed limits on highways by fifteen miles per hour. Nearly forty percent of drivers surveyed stated that they drove ten miles over the speed limit in a residential area.
Drivers Who Speed
Younger male drivers are more likely to speed than older male drivers and female drivers. Overall, younger drivers of both genders speed more often than older drivers. Car accidents involving young drivers are more likely to be caused by speeding. One research study conducted in California discovered that the overall number of speeding violations for every mile driven was three times as high for drivers who were sixteen to nineteen years old when compared with drivers who were over thirty years old.
A nationwide telephone survey conducted in 2011 found that the number of drivers who reported being involved in car accidents involving speeding during the previous five years was higher among drivers aged sixteen to twenty years old. Younger drivers had by far the highest number of car accidents involving speeding among drivers from all age groups.
Similar patterns are apparent in car accidents resulting in fatalities. Male drivers exceed speed limits at higher rates than female drivers. Approximately nineteen percent of male drivers who were involved in car accidents resulting in fatalities were driving over the speed limit when the accident occurred. However, only twelve percent of female drivers involved in car accidents resulting in deaths were driving beyond the speed limit. As drivers get older, they are less likely to be involved in fatal car accidents involving speeding.
Posted Speed Limits
The first laws regarding speed limits in the United States were instituted in 1901. The states have tended to be responsible for establishing their own speed limits. The national maximum speed limit during the seventies and eighties was fifty-five miles per hour across the country. In 1995 this regulation was repealed, and speed limits have tended to increase throughout the country.
Approximately twenty U.S. states have maximum posted speed limits of seventy miles per hour. Eleven states have set their maximum speed limits at seventy-five miles per hour. In eight states, particular sections of the interstate highway system have speed limits of eighty miles per hour. An approximately 40-mile section of State Highway 130 in Texas had an eighty-five mile per hour speed limit in October of 2012.
Different Types of Roads and Maximum Speed Limits in the United States
Each state has its own speed limits for every type of road. These roads include undivided highways, interstate highways, and divided highways. Land use laws are also influential when legislators determine the speed limits to set in specific parts of a state. School zones may have lower speed limits because of statutes that determine the maximum speed limits for school zones. State agencies and local agencies may determine that a particular area may have a lower speed limit than the maximum set by state law. Public safety is an important component of laws related to maximum speed limits.
The number of pedestrians near a road or highway is also an important factor that must be considered when determining speed limits. Also, past car accident history is also an important element that can influence the speed limit set for a particular area. Roadway design features, the physical environment, and land use regulations are also important things to consider when setting speed limits. The 85th percentile speed is also relevant to determining the speed limit for a particular area. The speed at which eighty-five percent of automobiles are moving during moderate traffic conditions can help planners determine the best speed limit for a specific region.
Those who support the 85th percentile speed limit propose that it lowers the need for law enforcement. Also, supporters suggest that the 85th percentile speed limit lowers car accidents by reducing overall speeds and speed variations. Some research studies have demonstrated that 85 percentile limits on rural highways increased over time. Speed limits may increase and thus raise the 85th percent limit figure. Some critics of the 85th percentile speed limit argue that it will continue to expand and grow as speed limits are raised.
Speed Limits and Occupant Safety
Policymakers who were interested in traffic safety wanted to study the consequences of increasing and reducing speed limits. The repeal of the national maximum speed limit allowed these individuals to gather data regarding speed limits and car accidents.
Oil limits in 1973 prompted the United States Congress to set forth a national maximum speed limit. The Department of Transportation determined which states received funds based on the adoption of the national maximum speed limit. Those states that did not comply were not granted funding through the Department of Transportation. Before 1973, many rural highways and interstates had speed limits from sixty-five to seventy-five miles per hour. Many rural roads had posted speed limits of seventy miles per hour. Urban streets and highways, and freeways typically had a maximum speed limit of fifty-five miles per hour.
Every state in the United States had established a fifty-five-mile per hour maximum speed limit. In 1987, the oil shortage had abated, and the United States Congress permitted individual states to increase speed limits in rural areas to sixty-five miles per hour.
In 1995, the United States Congress repealed the maximum speed limit when it passed the National Highway System Designation Act. Individual states were granted the authority to set their own speed limits. A majority of states raised speed limits in both urban and rural areas.
Traffic safety was influenced by the national maximum speed limit that was originally created to conserve oil use among consumers in the United States. According to the National Research Council, traffic fatalities were reduced by 4,000 in 1974 due to the national maximum speed limit.
But drivers began operating their vehicles at higher rates of speed after the national maximum speed limit was repealed in 1995. In one year, speed limits on three freeways near urban areas in Texas were increased from fifty-five miles per hour to seventy miles per hour. The number of drivers who operated vehicles in excess of seventy miles per hour rose from fifteen percent to fifty percent. Seventeen percent of drivers operated vehicles at speeds greater than seventy-five miles per hour.
In California, some freeways had speed limit increases from fifty-five miles per hour to sixty-five miles per hour. The percentage of drivers who operated their vehicles at speeds greater than seventy miles per hour increased to forty-one percent. Driver speeds continued to increase as speed limits rose to seventy-five miles per hour and eighty miles per hour.
Traffic deaths also rose as speed limits increased. In 1987, states raised posted speed limits to sixty-five miles per hour. After this speed limit increase, traffic fatalities on rural highways increased by thirty percent. Approximately two-thirds of this overall increase in traffic deaths was due to the raised speed limits and higher rates of travel.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a study that scrutinized the overall effects of speed limit increases. When the speed limit was raised by five miles per hour, an eight percent increase in traffic deaths on freeways and interstates occurred. Fatality rates increased by three percent on other streets and roads. Approximately 37,000 more car accident deaths happened due to increases in posted speed limits. 1,900 traffic accident deaths occurred in 2017 due to heightened speed limits.
Speed Limit Enforcement Methods
Law enforcement officers across the United States use different methods to enforce posted speed limits. Radar devices, LIDAR devices, VASCAR, and aerial speed measurement are some of the tools law enforcement agencies use to reduce speeding. Also, installing cameras in urban areas is an effective method of enforcing speed limits in urban areas where traffic lanes and intersections contain numerous automobiles.
Speed limit enforcement is an integral part of public safety. Law enforcement agencies can utilize novel speed limit enforcement methods to reduce the number of annual car accidents. Also, these methods allow state agencies to gather valuable data regarding traffic flow and speed limit enforcement.
Law Enforcement Officers Measure Speeds Using Speed Detection Devices
The primary method law enforcement officers use to detect speeding automobiles is radar. Individual officers hold radar devices in the direction of an automobile to send an electromagnetic field and detect the return electromagnetic signal reflected from the vehicle. The signal detected by a law enforcement officer shifts depending on the relationship between the automobile signal and the original signal from a radar device.
Law enforcement officers use radar because it is an accurate method of determining the speed of a moving vehicle. Identifying specific vehicles in congested traffic can be difficult, and some individuals use radar detectors to help them avoid being pulled over for speeding.
Light detection and ranging, or LIDAR devices, are also employed by law enforcement officers to determine the speeds of moving automobiles. Laser devices use a calculation involving time and distance to reveal the speed of an object. A beam of light strikes an object and measures the amount of time required for it to receive the reflected light. The speed of light is constant, and the time it takes the light to return from the object can determine the speed of a moving automobile. Unlike radar devices, lasers can pick out particular automobiles in congested traffic.
VASCAR is an acronym that means Visual Average Speed Calculator and Recorder. A portable computer system calculates the speed of a vehicle based on the time it takes the vehicle to travel a specific distance.
One important feature of VASCAR is its ability to measure speed over a longer distance than radar. Law enforcement officers use VASCAR to have a more specific measurement of a vehicle’s speed. VASCAR can be used from patrol cars following a particular automobile. Also, VASCAR can determine the speed of a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. Law enforcement officers find VASCAR to be one of the most precise methods of measuring the speed of a vehicle.
Aerial speed measurement is another tool for determining the speed of a vehicle. Law enforcement officers in small aircraft determine the speed of a vehicle based on the amount of time it takes the plane to move between two or more markings on the ground. Officers on the roads, highways, and interstates pull drivers over and issue citations for speeding.
Although it is more expensive than other methods of vehicle speed detection, aerial speed measurement can produce extremely accurate speed measurements and permit officers to focus on vehicles traveling at extremely high rates of speed.
Speed cameras are unique among speed detection devices. Law enforcement officers do not need to oversee speed cameras. Cities often use speed cameras to enforce speed limits by taking photographs of the license plates of individual automobiles.
The majority of speed cameras measure vehicles in a single place without moving. Speed cameras are fixed, and these devices typically use detectors or radars on the road surface to detect the speed of an automobile. Small cameras may be installed in unmarked patrol cars that use lasers or radars to detect the speed of a vehicle. Many communities require that some cameras be operated by a law enforcement officer. Photos of speeding vehicles are recorded, and the location, time, date, and speed of the vehicle are recorded.
Newer developments in speed detection technology enable speed cameras to measure speeds over specific distances. Two more cameras are placed at specific points and record images of vehicles passing the cameras. License-plate detection technology is used to identify vehicles to calculate the average speed between two points. Photographs and time-stamped images are used to prove that a driver was speeding. The United Kingdom and Australia use two-point speed cameras to enforce speed limits.
Speed detection cameras are not activated unless it detects an automobile moving faster than the speed limit. The average speed is ten to eleven miles over the speed limit. School zones and other regulated areas may feature lower speed thresholds.
Speed enforcement devices can lower incidents of speeding on many different types of roads and streets. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed studies of cameras in three different areas: Maryland, Arizona, and the District of Columbia. These studies determined that the number of drivers who were speeding by ten miles per hour lowered by seventy percent, eighty-eight percent, and eighty-two percent approximately six months after the cameras were installed.
One speed enforcement device study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Montgomery County, Maryland discovered that seven-and-a-half years after the speed cameras were installed, the area saw overall speeds reduced by ten percent. Also, the study found a sixty-two percent reduction in vehicles traveling ten miles per hour over the speed limit.
In 2010, the Cochrane Collaboration produced a review of thirty-five research studies from different countries around the world. Research leaders determined that covert, mobile, and fixed-speed cameras lowered average vehicle speeds from one to fifteen percent. The number of vehicles driving above the posted speed limits was reduced by fourteen to sixty-five percent.
The use of speed cameras throughout urban and rural areas reduces car accidents. Also, car accidents involving injuries are also reduced by the use of speed cameras. Speed cameras in Montgomery County, Maryland, produced an eight percent lower chance that a car accident was related to a speeding vehicle. Speed cameras in Montgomery County, Maryland, also saw a nineteen percent decrease in car accidents involving fatalities. The corridor approach regarding speed cameras also resulted in a thirty percent reduction in the occurrence of fatal car accidents.
Research studies examined by the Cochrane Collaboration discovered overall reductions in car accidents involving serious bodily injury and fatalities due to the installation of speed cameras. The trend over time is that roads, highways, and interstates become safer after speed cameras are incorporated in a specific geographic area.
In 2020, speed cameras had been installed in approximately one hundred and fifty-five communities in the United States. The use of speed cameras has expanded since they were installed in Arizona in 1987.
Trends Regarding Speed Cameras in United States Cities
Car accidents involving fatalities increased during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Although fewer people were driving during this period, the number of car accident fatalities rose. The drivers who were traveling on roads and highways during the COVID-19 global pandemic sped more often and ignored posted speed limits.
Speed cameras are just one component of the automated enforcement technology strategy cities, and states use to reduce speeding in their communities. The most common forms of speed cameras are those found at red lights and at intersections. Automated enforcement technologies reduce contact between law enforcement officers and the general public. During the COVID-19 global pandemic, these technologies were viewed as viable methods of reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
Speed cameras improve public safety, and approximately 350 cities, towns, and counties in the United States use red light cameras. If the camera detects a traffic violation, the traffic summons is sent to the automobile owner’s registered address. A photograph is taken, and law enforcement officers confirm that a driver committed a traffic violation.
U.S. Communities Using Speed Cameras
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that twenty-two states and the District of Columbia use speed cameras at red lights. Also, sixteen states and the District of Columbia use speed cameras to enforce speed limits. Law enforcement resources can be used to reduce crime in other areas of a community due to the implementation of speed cameras. These devices allow law enforcement agencies to maximize their resources by spending excessive amounts of time and money issuing traffic citations.
Automated Enforcement and State Laws
Most drivers who were questioned during telephone surveys expressed support for speed camera programs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety surveyed approximately nine hundred drivers in 2014 in Montgomery County, Maryland. The survey discovered that nearly sixty-two percent of drivers approved of speed cameras in residential areas.
In 2018, drivers sixteen and older responded to a survey, and forty-seven percent expressed approval of speed cameras being installed in residential neighborhoods.
Surveys taken by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the District of Columbia in 2012 revealed that residents approved of the speed cameras used since 2001. Approximately eighty-eight percent of residents stated that automobile speeding was a danger to their health and safety. The vast majority of residents in the District of Columbia support the use of speed cameras.
Drivers surveyed in Scottsdale, Arizona, approved the use of speed camera systems on freeways in urban areas. After these speed cameras were installed, a larger percentage of survey respondents expressed approval of speed cameras.
Guides published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, AAA, and the Governors Highway Safety Association provide guidance on implementing automatic speed camera detection systems. Public support is important for these systems to be as effective as possible.
Intelligent Speed Assistance
Intelligent speed adaptation, or intelligent speed assistance, is an internal system that informs the driver of their speed and whether it exceeds the posted speed limit. Intelligent speed assistance programs coordinate with GPS systems connected to sensors that examine posted speed limit signs.
Intelligent speed assistance programs have different mechanisms for controlling driver influence regarding speeding. The less sophisticated systems simply alert drivers about their speeding. Other systems have resistant gas pedals that make it difficult for drivers to depress the gas pedal and increase their speed. The most sophisticated systems restrict the flow of gasoline to an automobile’s engine. The driver can depress the gas pedal, but the automobile cannot exceed the posted speed limit. Many of these systems are automatic, and some have manual controls. Safe drivers are also provided with insurance discounts for not driving above the posted speed limit.
These automated safety systems reduce instances of speeding and reckless driving. A research study examined Swedish drivers using intelligent speed assistance systems. The research team found a marked reduction in overall speeding.
Research studies in the United States indicate that a financial benefit conferred on drivers for staying below the posted speed limit is effective at reducing speeding. Also, researchers in Europe have seen instances of speeding drop after implementing intelligent speed assistance programs.
Digital maps and GPS coordinates may present problems during inclement weather or at certain altitudes. The software for these programs also must be updated regularly to remain functional. The European Parliament approved a law in 2019 that will mandate all new automobiles sold in Europe to have intelligent speed assistance programs beginning in 2022. These devices can increase driver safety, make roads safer for pedestrians, and reduce the number of accidents involving serious bodily injury and death.
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