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Monday, March 12, 2012

Governors Recommend Crackdown On Speeding

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a partnership among federal, state and local governments to address the problem of unsafe highways, recently released a survey on the problem of speeding and aggressive driving on the nation’s roads and highways. The survey reveals that, while traffic deaths have gone down overall, the number of traffic fatalities directly related to speeding is rising.

State laws requiring the use of seat belts and stronger limits on teen drivers have led to a drastic reduction in highway fatalities over the last several years but, according to the GHSA, the proportional number of speed related traffic fatalities has remained unchanged for the past 25 years. Figures from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that speeding is directly responsible for one-third of all highway deaths.

Speeding is a major problem on US roads because higher speeds reduce the time a driver has to react to an unexpected driving situation and it increases the crash forces that result from a collision.

The GHSA report lists several factors that have kept the death rate by speeders at a higher level and they have recommended actions that both the federal and state governments need to take to reduce the level of speeding on the roads. Some of the factors leading to the rate of speeding on America’s roads are:

  • Public perception of speed - Driver attitude plays a major role in the perception of speed related to the dangers involved. A Purdue University survey of drivers in 2009 found that "21 percent thought it was safe to drive up to 5 mph over the speed limit, 43 percent thought it was safe to drive up to 10 mph over and 36 percent thought it was safe to drive up to 20 mph over the speed limit." The survey’s authors felt that this attitude might be due to the fact that some changes in speed limits seem to have more to do with political (for example: the repeal of the maximum federal speed limit in 1995) rather than safety concerns. A study by the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health showed that, in the ten years after the 1995 repeal of the federal maximum speed limit, there were approximately 12,500 more deaths that could be attributed to the increased speeds.

  • Conflicted role of technology – Red light cameras and laser speed detectors are showing up more and more on America’s roads however, many states are reluctant to pass state-wide laws regarding their use and leave the regulation of such devices up to local cities and towns. Additionally, many states still allow drivers to use technology such as radar detectors to circumvent the devices and avoid detection.

  • Other factors – "Over-involvement in speeding crashes is likely to involve the same type of driver—young, male and a resident of a rural area." This type of driver also engages in many other dangerous driving behav¬iors. At the same time, representatives of state highway safety offices report a reduction in law enforcement officers that are available to conduct speed enforcement activities.

The GHSA recommends the following actions:

  • States should explore addressing speed concerns through aggres¬sive driving enforcement since the driving public believes that aggressive driving is a serious threat to their safety.

  • Speed concerns can also be addressed through targeted enforce¬ment in school and work zones which are additional enforcement strategies supported by the public.

  • NHTSA should sponsor a national high visibility enforcement campaign and support public awareness efforts to address the issues of speed and aggres¬sive driving.

  • NHTSA should promote best practices in automated enforcement strategies.

  • NHTSA should sponsor a National Forum on Speeding and Aggressive Driving, similar to efforts undertaken in 2005, to bring together experts to review and update effective tools and strategies states can employ to reduce speed and aggressive driving.

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