By on February 8, 2011

A recent report from High Road Auto Research [full report in PDF here] finds that

It has been consistently found that the higher a vehicleʼs travel speed (even when driving at or under the legal limit), the greater the focus of the driver on their surroundings. The increased perception of danger triggers an increased endocrine reaction within the brain. This, in turn, forces the individual to play closer attention to objects in motion around the vehicle. Even relatively small changes in vehicle speed can result in substantial increases in spatial acuity and response time.

On the surface the report seems to be trading in truisms: after all, who would argue that higher speeds don’t trigger faster stimulus responses in drivers? But how does that apply to the real world of highway safety legislation and speed limits?

The report concludes:

In the past, speed limits have been set at or near the 85th percentile speed of the traffic, that is, the speed at or below which 85% of motorists choose to travel. This choice stems from the research undertaken by Usher (1970) who stated that: “the 85th percentile speed is that most  desirably approximated by a speed limit. Because of the general straight and steep slope of the typical speed distribution below the 85th percentile, a speed limit set only a little lower will cause a large number of drivers to be violators”. The Research Triangle Institute (1970) study of the  relationship between speed and accidents endorsed the 85th percentile speed as the criterion for the setting of maximum speed limits. These researchers recommended that the upper  speed limit be set at the 85th percentile speed, with supporting enforcement against those exceeding the 95th percentile speed. Similarly, at the other end of the speed distribution, it was recommended that minimum speed limits be set at the 15th percentile speed, with enforcement action to  be taken against those travelling slower than the 5th percentile speed. Isaac, Taylor and Zac (1970) undertook a survey of practices used in the United States to establish maximum speed limits, together with a major  review of the  various techniques for establishing speed limits.

While drivers usually drive at reasonable and sensible speeds this is not  always the case. A method of zoning that relies on the perceived inappropriate speed of the driver is necessary.  In most situations, drivers are aware to some degree of  the  speed limit that applies on the road they travel (motorists are aware that all roads in Australia have a speed limit ranging generally from 60km/h in urban areas to 100 or llOkm/h on rural highways). Thus, the 85% speed reflects these constraints and hence, they are not true indications of what 85% of the population would choose if no constraints apply. The goal is to supply the driver with a constraint that they then must exceed in order to trigger the endcrine reaction. This new zoning limit must be influenced by the signage, enforcement activity, amount of  traffic, time of day, etc.

The reason High Road’s study seems to break with road safety dogma is that, rather than treating motorists as children, it takes into account the brain’s responses to speed. As intuitive as the “speed kills” formulation seems, it falls into the trap of the overprotective parent who shields their offspring from stressful situations, rather than allowing them to rise to the challenge. As it turns out, humans respond dramatically to stimulus like speed, and the brain appears to compensate for the reduced time in which to make decisions by boosting chemicals associated with concentration and rapid decision-making. Anyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell’s powerful 2005 book “Blink” will find this perspective refreshingly on-point… whether the safety crusaders are prepared to challenge their safe assumptions about safety remains very much to be seen.

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55 Comments on “Does Speed Save?...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Focusing on speed here is a red herring and likely says as much about the preferences and inclinations of its author as much as anything else.
     
    I would suggest that it is not speed per se that is the issue here, but “the increased perception of danger.” It is the sense of ‘danger’ that arouses the body and mind, not speed as such. The same sense of danger can become heightened in heavy traffic (e.g., when one is surrounded by transports on a five lane highway), in a heavy pedestrian zone (e.g., a school zone), and a host of other situations. To focus on speed here is to miss the point.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent point. But the 85th percentile probably reflects people’s perception of danger. Anyway, it is highly refreshing when a report on this subject takes science into account rather than blindly mouthing the politically correct.
       

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      This may explain why Massachusetts has the second lowest highway death rate. Twisty narrow roads, rotaries, active breakdown lanes, and very aggressive drivers (and many other factors too numerous to list) really keep you on edge.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      “Anyway, it is highly refreshing when a report on this subject takes science into account rather than blindly mouthing the politically correct.”

      Oh dear!

    • 0 avatar
      tincanfury

      @mcs
      is that by # or percentage? either way, an amazing statistic considering how bad drivers in the Eastern side of the state are. I agree though that this causes other drivers to be on their toes more, on a drive to Logan from Brookline to pick up my friends dad I had 3 incidents of other drivers deciding to change lanes into my car, one who even slowed down to do so instead of merging ahead of me…

  • avatar
    nezromatron

    This assumes people can actually sense the higher speeds. In an era of cocoon-quiet cars, I would argue a fair number of people aren’t even aware they are speeding. Couple this with other distractions in the car, I’m not sure people really get a sense of danger.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Good point. All the safety features in today’s vehicles may actually serve to diminish the sense of danger associated with driving an automobile, and give one a false sense of security, even amidst increased speed.
       
      Also, speed by itself can become monotonous if the road is not too challenging (e.g., a prairie highway), thereby requiring further increases of speed to reawaken the sense of danger.
       
      I remember hearing someone on the radio some years ago saying that the best way to improve driver awareness would be to plant a large spike in the middle of the steering wheel facing the driver. Now that would heighten one’s sense of danger far better than driving fast ever could.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      You can add to that pick-up trucks and SUV’s that have stabilitrac or some other stabilization technology that gives the driver a false sense of security. I see this all the time, pick-up trucks and SUV’s darting in and out of traffic and taking turns much faster than I would in my Impala. Scares me to death.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Another issue is the bifurcation of the vehicle pool over the latter decades. While technology has allowed cars to be built to feel, and be, safer at any given speed, many motorists have responded by actively choosing tall, top heavy, poorly suspended vehicles. So you have BMW drivers forced to drive at an entirely unnatural 50 percentile for their cars, while Expedition pilots drive the same speed, at the 90th percentile for theirs. (With Elise/Exige drivers driving at the 20th at most.) Hardly makes for the most harmonious traffic flow.
       
      In heavy traffic, the increased risk from having car drivers go faster than SUV drivers, likely outweighs any benefit to be gained from allowing differing speeds; but on open roads, or in large traffic gaps, I bet enforcement would be more sensible if the individual vehicle’s dynamic capabilities were taken into account, instead of blindly relying on radar gun readings averaged for the entire fleet.
       

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      @ Zackman
      Funny you should mention, I tend to drive faster on curvy roads and take turns faster in my truck than in my Impala SS.  Though my situation is different, my truck is a 93 Sonoma which was manufactured to ride lower than any truck currently produced and in college I updated the suspension with factory ZQ8 (sport) package parts.  I’m sure the SS will out-handle the Sonoma, but the seats in the Sonoma hug my body so much better than the wide leather buckets in the SS… I slide across the seats whenever I take a corner at high speeds!

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I see this all the time, pick-up trucks and SUV’s darting in and out of traffic and taking turns much faster than I would in my Impala. Scares me to death.
       
      To be fair to the trucks, when my buddies and I were driving to Phoenix on the curvy I-17 from Flagstaff last year, the guy driving at the time commented on how much better our GMC 3/4-ton handled on the same road than the rental Impala he had the year before.  He said he had actually driven that highway below the speed limit because the numb, floaty car made him uncomfortable!

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    One high speed run on the autobahn and you know this is absolutely 100% true.  You focus on nothing besides driving.
     
    Don’t worry too much though.  Our speed limits in the USA are far too low, and enforcing them far too lucrative for anything to actually change.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      “One high speed run on the autobahn and you know this is absolutely 100% true.”

      Having never been on the Autobahn, not for lack of interest, I can only go based on what I learned from Modern Marvels a few years back. That being said I think I remember them saying that the death rate on the Autobahn is lower than it is on American highways. I think they mentioned that this is partly due to excellent lane discipline, you can only be in the left lane if you are passing, and the fact that none, or at least very few, of the cars have cup holders and so it makes it more difficult to endulge in American style distraction.

      The same program alluded to the fact that Germans are generally better trained to drive their cars than Americans in general. Needing to be 18 to even qualify for a license, needing to spend $1800 for a license once eligible, and needing to have some higher amount of professional driver-instructed behind the wheel training than we are used to, probably helps.

    • 0 avatar
      philipbarrett

      Using the left lane for anything but passing and tailgating are both verbooten on the autobahn & will get you an (automated) ticket faster than you can say mien gott!
       
      I am on a one man crusade to enforce the former in the US in European style, flicking my brights as I come up fast behind the offender.  It’s BMW drivers like me that give the rest of you a bad name!
       

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      tankinbeans-
       
      Lane discipline. This.
       
      America would return to prosperity if the drivers were aware of the function of the passing lane.
       
      I’m not kidding. How much of our lives are wasted because some simpleton is cruising in the left lane? How much of our lives are wasted in jams because said simpletons get into a fender-bender or break-down in the far left?

  • avatar
    carve

    Agreed.  Also, on a very long highway trip, it’s just going to take you more hours to arrive at your destination.  You’ll be both bored and tired- very dangerous.

    Furthermore, I wish cops would give some credence to what kind of car you’re driving.  Doing 80 in a new BMW or Corvette is not as dangerous as doing 80 in a Plymouth Belvedere.  The handling of those cars makes control and stability MUCH BETTER, the 4-wheel disc ABS brakes with stability control have no problem absorbing all that energy, and if you do crash, you’re a lot more likely to walk away.  Same goes if you’re comparing, say, a 2011 F-150 to a ’78 model, or a school bus to a civic. 

    Whatever you’re driving, danger goes up in traffic compared to an open road, and it goes up on a wet road at night vs. sunny and 80 degrees.  Going fast is safer for an experienced driver who hasn’t had an accident in decades and has taken defensive drivnig courses than for an inexperienced driver who’s had 3 wrecks in two years.  Yet, we’re still held to a one-size-fits-all limit (well, there is “speed too fast for conditions”)

    It sucks to bash everything down to the (almost) lowest common denominator instead of evaluating the real danger.  Should we base speed limits on how fast my grandma can safely drive a Model A, or something more sensible? 

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Two limits on one road is even worse than the revenue limits we have now.  Difference in speed kills.
       

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Tell that to the Germans.  The Autobahns are safe with MASSIVE speed differentials.  The key is keeping all the slow pokes in their dump-trucks, Belvederes, and rust-buckets in one lane. This would be an easy transition; when was the last time you saw someone get a ticket for blocking the left lane? Start doing that, and people will drive right. It’d be nice if the cops focused on actual safety improvements instead of just speeding. It seems like traffic cops focus on 90% speeding, 9% light-running and weaving, and 1% everything else. This aught to be reversed, at least on the highways.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Here here. Just once, I’d love to see a ticket written for passing on the right (or going under in the passing lane.)
       
      Just once. Even if said ticket is for me.

    • 0 avatar

      It would be unfair to ticket someone for passing on the right when left lane blocking is so completely tolerated by the cops. I would like to see those people ticketed.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      It’s worth noting that, in most of Europe, the motorway/autobahn speed limits are 130 km/h (about 80 mph). On German autobahns, the recommended speed is 130 km/h and most traffic is in the 120 – 140 km/h range. There is the occasional BMW or Mercedes hauling much faster, but for every one of those, there are at least 10 Opel Corsa 1.2′s or VW Golf non-turbo-diesels or Ford Mondeos hauling trailers that are bigger than the car.
       
      If you are towing, the speed limit is 100 km/h and you can’t use the left lane. Makes sense. Although I had to laugh at the sight of a Citroen 2CV towing a small trailer (in the right lane going slowly – it was probably floored). Everyone tows trailers with cars over there. Few SUV’s, almost no pickup trucks.
       
      Heavy trucks have a speed limit of 80 km/h and are restricted to the right lane, which presumably is one of the things which encourages long distance shipping to be done by rail (along with high fuel costs). I didn’t notice anywhere near as many trucks on the road over there.
       
      Many sections of the autobahn have variable speed limits. An overhead sign displays the current restrictions. Approaching an interchange? 120 km/h. Other side of the interchange – End of restriction. If it’s raining torrentially, the speed limit can be as low as 80 km/h.
       
      Lane discipline is a lot better in Germany, and people actually signal their turns and lane changes.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      130km/h in far denser Europe (just forget the dream of Germany).  That’s 80mph.  Yet we get stuck doing 70mph in completely empty central Washington state.  Or 75 in Montana when you don’t see another car on the road.  Or 65mph in the corn fields of Illinois?
       
      And then when we exceed those limits by 6-7mph (still under the 130km/h limit in Europe) we are slapped with fines of hundreds and hundreds of dollars, plus insurance penalties for “unsafe” driving?!  And without accounting for ability, experience, vehicle, etc??
       
      This, to me, is the true travesty.  The unsafe stuff such as weaving, blocking of lanes/traffic (as already mentioned here), cutting off of people, busted lights, bald tires, etc are all left alone.
       
      Sorry, but 6mph over a ridiculously low speed limit is simply not dangerous.  And treating it as such, with massive financial punishment, is really really unjust in my mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Loser

      The Germans must actually learn how to drive properly before getting a licence. Here in the U.S. we just learn how to get a licence.

  • avatar
    threeer

    That, and a police force that concentrates more on safety than being a self-perpetuating cash machine.  I vividly recall seeing a Polizist on his BMW motoring up to a car three two cars ahead of me as I was getting ready to merge onto the A8 just outside of Karlsruhe and gesturing to the driver to actually SPEED UP!
    It certainly is true that German drivers go through a much more rigourous (and costly) training effort to obtain their license compared to us in the States (my driver’s test back in 1988 included all of four right-and turns, one left and a top speed of…40 MPH…yeah, I was qualified!).  And the roads (at least the Autobahns) are maintained to a much higher standard…some of the “B” roads leading into my mother’s town left a little to be desired.  Hence, a much lower fatality rate.  The only problem with accidents on the Autobahn is that they tend to be a bit grausam, as one would imagine…
    It isn’t necessarily the speed that kills here in the States.  It’s a lack of properly prepared and trained drivers, and the immense load of distractions that they place themselves under while they drive…

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I forgot to post this earlier (and I hope it is OK/within rules that I do, if not, I apologize in advance…..no affiliation whatsoever)….
     
    But this is discussed in nice detail in a book I read a few years back called Traffic.  http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Drive-What-Says-About/dp/B002N2XHGW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297199842&sr=8-1 Quite interesting.  But there is a traffic engineer in the Netherlands that basically uses this increased perception of danger to slow down traffic.  Signs don’t work, enforcement doesn’t work, speed bumps don’t work (yet this is what we keep using) but rather more or less confusion works.  He puts trees in the middle of a street.  Makes the streets meander.  Makes them narrow, etc.
     
    Anyway, just wanted to mention.  It was rather shocking to read about most of what was in there.  I’d recommend it.

    • 0 avatar
      frizzlefry

      That’s much like the “shared space” concept. No signs or speed limits. Pedestrians, bikes and cars share the road. Doing so forces people to drive slower and be aware of their surroundings. Having a sign every 5 feet giving people right of way works until someone disobeys the sign. If no one has a perceived right of way, no one assumes what the behavior of other motorists will be and are always careful. It goes against any and all human nature to try and even think about using a cell phone in a shared space. It’s a proven method of getting roads safer.

    • 0 avatar

      I reviewed that book for TTAC here:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-why-we-drive-the-way-we-do-and-what-it-says-about-us/

      The one problem with that book is it didn’t consider the phenomenon of faster speeds boosting attention during highway driving–just bought into the usual speed kills.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Hot Rod magazine back in the late 1960′s advocated high-performance engines and really fast acceleration for “safety reasons”, i.e: if you had one of the supercars, either from the factory, or better yet, modifications guided by the magazine articles to make your current ride more “super”, the increased horsepower would enable the driver to maneuver more quickly out of “dangerous situations” and “accident avoidance”! Me and my buddies laughed at that back then and it has never left my memory! In some strange way I think this applies to the article, somehow (scratching my head).

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      I agree that in some cases more power can help but I would say that good handling and breaking are more important, especially with more horse power.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      “Breaking”? The authors of the report also say “breaking” when they mean “braking” (Abstract p.3). I find it hard to take them seriously after that…..
       
      I bought an Acura over the ‘equivalent’ Honda, as it had ABS, better lighting, better brakes, etc.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    I think there does need to be a caution to this, however.  Increased endocrine response over a long period of time is likely to make a driver more tired in a quicker time frame than a more relaxed speed would be.  This fatigue may lead to a drop in judgement or attentiveness.  So it might not be a suitable thing to set speed limits on all roads, especially those that people are frequently driving for multiple hours, to a number that would encourage excessive fatigue.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      The increased endocrine response would be for a shorter duration of time than had it not occurred.  The inflection point on that would probably be dependent upon trip length which would vary widely driver to driver.  See Holden’s anecdote below for an example of how lack of speed can also contribute to fatigue. 

      4h @ 100km/h or 2h @ 200km/h?  All other things being equal, I know which one I’d choose.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      @Wagen
      Left to their own devices in terms of speed enforcement and traffic, most people in the U.S. and Canada seem to choose something near 3 hours at 130 km/h.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Learning to drive during the era of a national 55 MPH speed limit I can tell you there was nothing more painful on this planet than driving through rural Virginia on I-84 at 55 MPH.  It was like you were moving in slow motion.  I found on long trips I would have to fight to stay awake.  Even when the national speed limit was ended, states like Connecticut liked to proudly display on their borders, “Speed Limit STILL 55 MPH” and they enforced it more strictly than a Taliban convention enforcing Sharia law during casual burqua Friday.

    The reduction in highway fatalities with the ending of the 55 MPH speed limit isn’t just about speed; cars have vastly improved especially those technologies most needed at speed, brakes, tires, and ESC.

  • avatar
    obbop

    “…a report on this subject takes science into account rather than blindly mouthing the politically correct.”
     
     
    They blinded me with science.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Speed limits were determined on the 85th percentile the same way highway interchanges were designed to eliminate weave areas.  I fear all the technocratic justification for speed limits went out the window long ago, along with all concepts of managing traffic flow other than to deliberately interrupt it as much as possible under the guise of ‘calming.’
    I’d love to be proven wrong, but it seems we’ve drifted back to where we were fifty years ago.

  • avatar
    donkensler

    I remember well the days in the immediate aftermath of enactment of the double nickel, when NJ state cops actually enforced it, and the pre-1987 days when you could be stopped on the Ohio Turnpike for driving 56 (it happened to my Mom once).  Driving at 55 on an Interstate or Turnpike was the most boring activity imaginable.  You felt like you were going so slow you had time to look around, pay attention to the cows in the fields, read every word on the billboards, everything but pay attention to driving.  In addition, the sheer boredom induced sleep.
     
    By contrast, in Michigan where there was an unspoken agreement with the cops that you wouldn’t be stopped for anything less than 70 on a rural Interstate, you realized you had to pay attention.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Interesting . . . and something I’ve noticed myself.  Driving must be challenging enough to sufficiently engage your attention.  Otherwise, you get bored and your mind wanders . . .  I’ve read that airline pilots often have the same problem, because the plane is under automated control so much of the time.
    Ideally, there would be no highway speed limit — simply what is prudent under the conditions.  Problem is, such a standard is completely unenforceable.  When I-68 was first opened up between I-70 and Cumberland, Md., the road was totally deserted.  I regularly drove that road at 100 mph on trips to my mountain house in West Virginia.  I would average 70 mph over the 210 mile trip . . . with 1/3 of it being on mountain two-lanes.  However, with the volume of traffic on that road today, achieving such speeds would be totally insane.
    I’ve only driven once on autobahn-type roads in Europe (in Denmark).  The lane discipline was fantastic.  But “lane discipline” only works with traffic volume at a certain level; once it exceeds that level, there simply isn’t room in the right lane to free up the left lane exclusively for overtaking.  The other question I have about those roads is: how far do they go?  I’ve driven from DC to LA in 2 1/2 days . . . at 95th percentile speeds (and never above 80).  That’s a lot of hours.  Does anyone other than a professional endurance race driver have the concentration to drive 10 or 12 hours at 100 mph . . . which would be the case if German-style autobahns existed in the US?  Anywhere in Europe, you drive 400 miles, you’ve gone somewhere.  Here in the US, you really haven’t.
    Regrettably, it seems that lots of speed enforcement is irrational.  First off, it’s easy.  Just put on a radar unit and you’re good to go.  Hook it up to a camera and you’ve got a cash machine for the government.  My favorite example of irrationality is right here in The Capital of the Free World.  There’s street called McArthur Boulevard that parallels the Potomac River and brings commuters into Georgetown and, eventually downtown DC.  It runs through mostly quasi-residential areas with some small stores.  It’s 4 lines, divided by a wide esplanade.  It has traffic signals for some, but not all of the cross streets.  The speed limit used to be 30, a reasonable limit.  However, commuters would bomb through the street at 40 or 45.  (I know, I used to drive the street sometimes in rush hour.)  Local residents — justifiably — complained.  So what was the response?  Not more vigorous enforcement of the 30 mph limit . . . but lowering the limit to 25 (the speed limit for secondary streets) and vigorously enforcing that limit.  Take that suburbanites!

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      Limits in cities or heavy traffic areas or intersections are often in place.  It is very common in Germany to have an unlimited stretch interrupted by a couple km’s of 120km/h and then it lifts again.  I would expect something similar if (yeah right) anything like this ever made it to the USA.  You’d still see limits in cities and high traffic areas.
      Though I am sometimes surprised that limits going right past Frankfurt, electronically metered at times, are often unlimited as well.  Of course its often busy, which means you don’t really go all that fast.
       
      At the end of the day, I’m frankly quite amazed at how well it works.  Heavy traffic and people drive well.  Very few heavy feet.  When open, people hold their lane, and while there are some who like to fly low, there are plenty others in puny little cars with motorcycle sized engines going at 120-140km/h, and everyone is happy.
       
      If you get tired of driving fast, slow down.  Don’t have to keep up 100mph for hours on end.  That’s the beauty of the system….you get to choose! :)
       
      Your post about the limits in DC….didn’t someone recently do an article on TTAC about the new law in Michigan about setting correct speeds and it found that the changes in posted limits made ZERO difference on actual vehicle speeds?  I’m guessing that the same is happening on that road in DC. I can relate, my hometown in Idaho is simply awful with it seems nearly every road from neighborhood to thoroughfare set at 25mph.  One street (thoroughfare) even had so much complaining by residents (despite using this street for 15+ years without seemingly a problem until recently) that they demanded a study of traffic be performed to see how many people were speeding.  Turns out that most traffic was driving UNDER 25mph!  Unbelievable.  This, however is still too fast.  Now they want speed bumps.
       
      At some point it seemed that streets apparently are only for the desired use of those who live on them.  Regardless of design, use by others who have paid for their construction, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      @DC Bruce
      Two words for traffic and parking enforcement in DC: Commuter tax.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Cars are getting safer and more powerful over time. There is room for raising speed limits on that alone. There are roads were driving at the speed limit is actually a bit scary and I definitely feel heightened senses on those roads. There are roads to, were the limit is hopelessly to slow. Those situations can easily lead to a driver being more distracted (read bored) and therefore a danger to others.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Speed?  “It’s not the speed so much, I just wish I hadn’t drank all that cough syrup this morning.”

  • avatar
    Kiwi_Mark_in_Aussie

    Or whos been spoofed :
    http://smh.drive.com.au/motor-news/speed-scammers-stir-up-media-storm-20110209-1amaf.html

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Oops! If true, then this is a good instance of a problem that everyone faces, namely, of only seeing or being attracted to things we want to see.
       
      I had a quick glance at the original article, and while I couldn’t link to some of the references (which was troubling), nevertheless some of the references are genuine. The problem is that the few articles I glanced through spoke of the dangers and risks of high speed, not the virtues of them.  I don’t have time to check the entire article right now, as well as the one claiming it’s a spoof (which should also be checked, by the way–but I have to go to work), but a more thorough check is called for.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      “I had a quick glance at the original article, and while I couldn’t link to some of the references (which was troubling), nevertheless some of the references are genuine. The problem is that the few articles I glanced through spoke of the dangers and risks of high speed, not the virtues of them.  I don’t have time to check the entire article right now, as well as the one claiming it’s a spoof (which should also be checked, by the way–but I have to go to work), but a more thorough check is called for.”
      Are you for real, seriously tell me you are joking. Just look at the names on some of the references.

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      Retraction here:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/busted-aussie-speed-study-scam-snares-ttac/

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    A top piece of journalism guys. Did the fact that it went against current most current research not pique even the slightest, insy-winsy desire to check some of the references?

    For the credibility of TTAC, particularly as it is atributed to the TTAC editor, you need to address this in a retraction…

  • avatar

    What happens when the higher speed becomes “normal” for you?

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    I too am for higher speed limits, as I have noticed time and again that I become increasingly bored when traveling at a measly 60-65 mph, when my car can easily do 75 without breaking a sweat (chugging along at 2k rpm).

    However, one item of concern that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned yet, is road condition.  After watching the Modern Marvels on the Autobahn, I took away that the real difference between our roads and German roads is bed depth.  The average bed depth on the Autobahn is 2-3 feet (if I recall correctly), while the average Interstate is 1-1.5 feet, with U.S. and State highways considerably less built up than that.  In the warmer climates, this isn’t much of an issue, but where I live in the north, the changing weather conditions wreck havoc on the thin roads, creating ice heaves and pot holes.  There is no way I would want to travel 75-80 mph on a road with significant ice heaves and potholes (and even the Interstates in my neck of the woods have both writ large) due to the damage that it would do to my suspension, along with the lack of traction that is inerrant with bumps and holes in the road.  If my highly equipped car has trouble with this, I can only imagine what lesser equipped cars would face.

    Really, that was just a long way of saying that in addition to poor driver education, the U.S. also doesn’t have the infrastructure in many parts of the country to support higher speeds (as sad as I am to say that).

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    One of the main problems with higher speeds (aside from all the one’s relating to the increased severity of crashes and so on, which is a serious problem, especially for the person being hit), is that generally speaking the faster you travel the less margin you have for error. Errors are magnified significantly at higher speeds, and what might be a minor error at a low speed (and one you can easily compensate for and overcome) can very quickly become a major one at high speeds (e.g., hitting a rut or an small obstacle in the road).
     
    Maybe it’s because I’m more aware of how dangerous automobiles really are (they can become an irresponsible weapon in the wrong hands, a fact that most people don’t appreciate), I’ve learned to always try and remain focused while I’m driving, no matter how fast I’m going. It is more tiring because it requires more deliberate attention, but it seems a more responsible way to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      My wife had the (counter-intuitively) good fortune to have a minor accident within weeks of learning to drive. Left-front blowout at the bottom of a downhill cloverleaf onramp put her into the wall somewhere below 25mph. And 25mph into a solid wall is a hard hit. (no injuries, just minor soreness from the seatbelt.) It gave her a gut-level understanding of how fast 60-70 mph really is, and the forces involved if something goes pear-shaped at those speeds.

  • avatar
    geeber

    If this “study” was released as a spoof, then I have to agree – we have a major “oops!” on our hands.

    It is important to remember that higher speeds on limited access highways, or even higher speed limits, have not meant more deaths or even more accidents. We are driving faster than ever, but the fatality rate continues to hit a record low.

    The “speed kills” mindset inevitably results in a trooper sitting alongside the road, clocking the speeds of passing vehicles with radar, and pulling over one or two unlucky drivers who happen to be exceeding some pre-set limit. (Based on what I’ve seen, about 90 percent of drivers on limited access highways are exceeding this limit, unless they are driving on an urban interstate during rush hour.) I’m not seeing how this improves highway safety. It just increases public cynicism and fuels sales of radar detectors and CB radios.

    There is no proof that, just because these drivers are exceeding that limit, they are automatically a danger to themselves or others. This isn’t doing much to boost highway safety. It does fill state and local coffers.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    Greatly depends on what is speeding as well. Does not matter if your senses are hightened if the vehicle can’t execute what your spidy senses tell it to. When I drive my A6 on the highway it feels and responds going 140km/h just like it does going 70km/h. I had to drive my boss’s 2006 Toyota 4Runner on the highway once….at 120km/h it felt like I was on the water…it was bobbing and swaying…horrible. I was not confident it could respond nearly as well in an emergancy as the A6 would.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Awareness of driving saves.
    Cluelessness, apprehension, timidity, and lack of decision making by beige drivers who consider cars appliances like refrigerators- kills.


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