It seems that these days everyone is in a hurry. Traffic on the roads is heavy, people are often rushing around, and we all have to be somewhere now. The problem this creates is the decrease in our “safety cushions”. Cars are travelling the highways at 65 or 75 mph… or faster, and they are only a few feet behind the car in front of them. If we speed and tailgate we seem to think we will arrive at our destination sooner. But is this really true? What are the risks?
Speeding often does not decrease driving time substantially, but it does increase risk. For example, travelling at 75mph verses 55mph on a ten mile trip will only save four minutes. However, when one considers traffic, school zones, toll booths, stop lights, etc… the time saved is likely much less than four minutes. We burn more gas, become frustrated, increase the risk of rear end collisions and speeding violations, and really don’t save any time. Wouldn’t it just be better to leave earlier and drive defensively?
Following distance is critical. People require time to perceive traffic problems ahead, more time to react to the situation, and more time to actually stop the vehicle. Standard perception and reaction times range from .5 seconds to .75 seconds for each. Although that doesn’t sound like a long time, a vehicle travelling at 65mph will travel between 100 and 150 feet during that time.
Next consider the impact speeding has on the performance of your car or truck. Specifically, how does a speed increase effect stopping distance? The answer might surprise you. A doubling of your speed doesn’t just increase your stopping distance by twofold. It actually increases it by four times. Pretty clear that the faster you go, the longer the stopping distance… by a lot. No wonder we have rear end collisions involving multiple vehicles.
The right answer is clear. Slow down, drive defensively, and increase following distances. Leave yourself enough time and space to stop or steer around any surprises in front of you.
Transportation is the leading cause of death in the workplace; don’t become a statistic. Driving is a serious business we should not take for granted. For training ideas and more information check out the resources from the National Safety Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.