Fatal accidents have been decreasing on a per-mile driven basis for many years. Fewer fatal car accidents occur today than at any point in the last 50 years. While that is good news, we should not be too quick to congratulate ourselves. Much of that improvement has come through improved technology and safer vehicles. Poor driving behavior is still the cause of many deadly accidents. According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, aggressive driving, including speeding, is still the cause of more than 10,000 deaths a year. That number is roughly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities.
Thirty-five states have passed legislation in the last few years regarding cell phone use by drivers. Distracted driving, whether it is caused by text messaging or GPS devices, has been a hot topic among safety experts, lawmakers and the media. When it comes to aggressive driving and speeding, there have been almost no efforts to curb the problem in years. Indiana’s law about aggressive driving was the first since 2005 and made it one of 11 states to specifically ban aggressive tactics. The penalties for speeding have remained basically unchanged all across the country. Given the number of fatal accidents caused by speeding, this lack of attention is surprising.
For the most part, people seem indifferent to speeders. People who speed in residential areas might prompt angry calls from neighbors, but speeding on the highway is so common, few people even notice. Aggressive drivers are also a regular sight on every highway in the U.S. The GHSA had a few suggestions for overcoming the indifference and convincing people that speeding and aggressive driving are dangerous and unacceptable behavior. First, the GHSA suggested specifically targeting aggressive driving. Most people have been irritated or frightened by another driver at some point, so they can understand the purpose of an aggressive driving law. In terms of speeding, the GHSA recommended focusing on speeding in school and construction zones, as those forms of speeding generate a better public response.
As always, the best way to improve safety is to improve driver awareness about the costs of poor behavior. Is it worth your life, or the life of anyone on the road to shave 2 minutes off your commute? Slow down, particularly in construction zones, and you will help reduce fatal car accidents even further.
Source: The Car Connection, “Speeding, Aggressive Driving Still Cause 1/3 Of Fatal Accidents,” by Richard Read, 9 March 2012