Loss Control Insights
Speed: How It Increases the Risk of Car Crash Injuries
"The old cliché, 'speed kills' is 100% accurate," says Jim Stotser, EMC Senior Engineer. For every 10 mph of increased speed, the risk of dying in a crash doubles. In addition, speed increases the risk of serious injuries and damage to vehicles and property. In fact, speed accounted for approximately one-third of all traffic deaths in 2018, totaling 9,378 deaths.
The Science of Speeding
There is solid scientific evidence behind the truth of the cliché. The evidence—based on physics—involves Newton’s law, centrifugal force, kinetic energy, vehicle mass and velocity. In simpler terms: for every 10 mph of increased speed, the risk of dying in a crash doubles. In practical terms, increasing driving speed from 60 mph to 80 mph increases the risk of a fatal crash by 4 times.
The Consequences of Speeding
- It’s harder to drive through curves safely as driving speed increases because of centrifugal force. Jim explains, "Those curves just pull at your vehicle and the faster you are moving the more difficult it is to maneuver through the curve without straying into the other lane."
- Speeding diminishes a driver’s reaction time. "Whether it’s rain, icy roads, or a deer or pedestrian stepping out in front of you, you are at a disadvantage the faster you are moving," Jim says. "Our brains are limited by how quickly they can notice—and then react to—an external event. And unfortunately, the faster we are moving, the less chance to react in time to prevent a crash."
- The effectiveness of a vehicle’s built-in occupant protection equipment decreases as the force of the accident increases. This includes seat belts, air bags and the crushing abilities of the vehicle body.
- The faster the vehicle is moving, the greater the rollover risk in vehicles with a high center of gravity.
- Stopping distance is increased. This means that even if the driver can see a danger ahead, it may be impossible to stop in time before impact.
- Speeding while driving puts nearby pedestrians and cyclists at greater risk. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association in 2019, there was an increase of 5% to 6,590 pedestrians killed and an increase of 6.3% or 857 cyclists killed. While there are other reasons for this increase, speed does play a role.
- While fuel efficiency doesn’t impact crashes, it should be a bottom-line concern for any company with a fleet. Driving at higher speeds can significantly decrease fuel efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by 15-30% at highway speeds and 10-40% in stop-and-go traffic.
- Speeding breaks the law so a speeding driver may incur fines, tickets and even loss of a driver’s license, which can affect continued employment.
- After-effects of speeding can include raised insurance costs, lawsuits, driver loss of license, and vehicles either totaled or needing extensive repairs.
- Always keep in mind that there are other considerations beside the posted speed limit. Drivers need to determine a safe speed according to driving conditions such as wet pavement, icy roads, fog or nighttime visual limitations, or construction zones.
Encouraging Employees to Reduce Driving Speeds
There are ways to keep tabs on your drivers’ speed and ensure that your employees understand why speeding is not acceptable. Here are Jim’s suggestions:
- Use telematics or other monitoring devices on fleet vehicles as a sure-fire way to gain hard evidence of employees’ compliance (or lack thereof).
- Monitor speeding violations and accidents—of employees and potential hires—to be sure their track record is solid. These records must be part of any company’s hiring practices, performance appraisals and retention policy. EMC’s SuperVision® Driver Monitoring can help you streamline this process.
- Reconsider paying employees or contractors by customer contact, required number of "drops" in an hour or a day, and other work targets that focus on driving as quickly as possible from one location to another.
- Include speeding as a component in your fleet training program and be clear about consequences for not following the rules. For more details, visit the EMC Driver Safety webpage or contact EMC.
Rethinking the Need for Speed
Jim’s philosophy about getting from point a to point b has evolved through many years of driving as part of his career. "Early in my driving career, I used to roll along at 6-7 mph over the posted interstate speed limit. While this was usually within the range allowed by most highway patrol officers, I found myself more stressed out at the end of the trip. I began to recognize that added stress saved me only a few minutes of time."