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NHTSA Study Finds Speeders Hard to Slow Down

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Speeding drivers

Image courtesy NHTSA’s National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior

Although the vast majority of drivers believe those behind the wheel should obey speed limits because they are the law, more than a quarter of those surveyed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say speeding is something they do without thinking, as Matt Schmitz writes for Cars.com in an article appearing in USA Today. One in five drivers surveyed admitted they try to reach their destination as fast as they can, an NHTSA press release says. Speeding-related deaths nationwide account for nearly a third of all traffic fatalities each year, taking close to 10,000 lives.

The National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior found that almost half of all drivers feel that speeding is a major concern, writes Megan Stewart for automotive.com. According to NHTSA, 48% of those surveyed said it is very important for something to be done to reduce speeding on U.S. roads. The study says it is the third in a series of surveys that provide data to help the agency develop ways to reduce speeding. This most recent report compares findings from the 2011 survey to those of the 2002 and 1997 surveys, allowing NHTSA to identify trends in speeding and driving behavior “especially as new technologies such as cell phones become more pervasive in the driving community.”

The report classifies drivers as nonspeeders (30% of those surveyed), sometime speeders (40%) and speeders (30%) and says:

In terms of demographics, drivers classified as speeders tend to be younger and male, and to have higher household incomes when compared to sometime speeders and nonspeeders. Interestingly, 36% of all male drivers, one-half of drivers 16 to 20, and 42% of drivers with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more were classified as speeders. The typology was particularly useful in distinguishing self-reported behaviors and attitudes toward speeding and toward interventions aimed at speeding among drivers.

About 10% of those surveyed said they have been stopped by police for speeding in the past year, and about two-thirds of those said they received a ticket for speeding, the study says. And although most drivers said they drive at safe speeds, those who have been stopped for speeding within the past year say they drive faster than the speed limit, which the study says reflects “a willingness to accept the risks associated with speeding.”

Drivers who had been stopped by police within the past year and given a warning rather than a ticket tend to believe that going about 11 miles per hour over the speed limit on multi-lane divided highways and two-lane roads will not result in a speeding ticket, the study finds. Speeders who received speeding tickets in the past year were more likely than others to say that tickets did not change their driving behavior.

The study goes on to say:

Only a very small portion of drivers report experiencing a speeding-related crash in the past 5 years and even fewer (about 1%) reported being in two or more speeding-related crashes in that time period. However, 11% of drivers 16 to 20 reported at least one speeding-related crash in the past 5 years. The percentage of drivers in speeding-related crashes in this age group is greater than in any other age group, even though these young drivers may not have been driving for all of the past 5 years. This age effect is not surprising, considering the high overall crash rates of young drivers. This result continues to support further traffic safety interventions and efforts aimed specifically at young drivers.

NHTSA found that speeders are more likely than nonspeeders and sometime speeders to have cell phones in their cars, to talk on them while driving, and to send or read text messages while driving. In addition, drivers classified as speeders are less likely than other drivers to wear seat belts most of the time, the study found. The report finds that those classified as speeders are the most resistant to conventional measures to reduce speeding. Finding interventions that will work on them poses a challenge, the report concludes. As this blog reported in June, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association found that speeding as a factor in fatal teen crashes increased in the last decade from 30% in 2000 to 33% in 2011.

The press release quotes a key Cabinet member:

‘We all have places we need to go, but it’s never the right decision to put ourselves, our families and others in harm’s way to get there faster,’ said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. ‘This is another reminder, as the busy holiday season approaches, to obey speed limits, reduce speed in inclement weather conditions and allow plenty of time to arrive safely.’

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