Death in the fast lane: Speeding accounts for nearly one-third of traffic deaths

Rachel Hartman
The next time you’re running late, you may want to reschedule your appointment instead of stepping on the gas.
Speeding continues to be one of the most contributors to crashes, according to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association in March 2012. A total of 10,530 people lost their lives in speeding-related crashes in the United States and Puerto Rico during 2010, representing 31 percent of all traffic deaths.
The report, “Survey of the States: Speeding and Aggressive Driving,” reveals that despite reductions in the overall number of speed-related crashes and deaths, the proportion of speed-related deaths has remained unchanged during the past quarter century. Today, nearly one-third of all traffic deaths continue to be related to speed.
“It’s an ‘everyone does it’ sort of issue,” says Kara Macek, a spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Everyone speeds, and if you don’t get caught and don’t get in a crash, you’re not likely to change your behavior.”
Regardless of viewpoints on speeding, motorists who drive faster than the posted limits put themselves and others at risk. In addition to the increased likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash, going over the limit can lead to speeding tickets, higher auto insurance rates and possibly losing auto insurance coverage.
Speeding problems
For the report, the Governors Highway Safety Administration conducted an online survey during late 2010 and early 2011. State highway safety representatives throughout the country responded.
When asked about difficulty with enforcing speed limits, 78 percent of the safety representatives listed public indifference to speeding as the chief obstacle. Public perception of speed enforcement as “just a revenue generator” came in second, and lack of federal funding for enforcement ranked third.
While a high percentage of motorists regularly clock miles over the posted speed limit, younger drivers tend to go particularly fast. In the report, 81 percent of states cited males, teens, and young adult drivers in rural areas as the most represented group in speed-related crashes.
“Sometimes it’s a fatal combination,” says José Alberto Uclés, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Administration. A driver may have been drinking alcohol, and then starts to speed, not obey road signs, get distracted and, ultimately, wind up in a potentially deadly crash.
Raising awareness
To combat the dangers of speeding, the report encourages states to carry out enforcement activities in high-risk areas, such as school zones.
Automated speed enforcement also may help. “Just like breathalyzers took away the need for officers to pull over drivers and have them ‘walk in a straight line,’ we have technology that can tell automatically if a vehicle is speeding,” says Jackie Gillan, vice president of the nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
As of March 2012, 14 states allowed automated speed enforcement of some kind. Two states permitted it in all areas of the state.
Speeding and insurance
Here are four things to know about how going over the limit can affect your auto insurance rates.
1. Getting a policy could be difficult.
If you’re shopping for auto insurance and have more than two speeding tickets on your driving record, you may not be accepted by a company or you may be charged higher rates, says Joel McCauley, owner of Trinity Insurance and Risk Management LLC in Virginia. Why? Your risk of getting into a crash increases in direct proportion to the number of times you’ve been cited for speeding, according to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
2. Speeding tickets could affect your rates – but not right away.
Receiving too many speeding tickets (the exact number varies by company) during a certain period of time could lead to auto insurance rate increases, McCauley says.
The higher premium usually won't take effect immediately, however. Insurance companies often issue policies for one year and evaluate them at the end of that term. If you get a speeding ticket and have had your current coverage for six months, any effect on your insurance rates would happen six months later, when the time came to renew the policy.
3. A refresher course in driver safety could help avoid rate increases.
If you get a speeding ticket, a judge may offer to suspend the conviction, provided you complete a driver safety course. Doing so could keep the ticket off your record -- and eliminate any speed-related increases in your auto insurance rate.
4. Too much speeding could lead to a policy loss.
If you receive several speeding tickets within a certain period, your insurance company may decide to not renew your policy. Options for auto insurance still might be available through a company that sells policies to high-risk drivers -- but that could come at a steep price.

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