Why Speeding Really Is the Most Dangerous Driving Behavior

There are a lot of dangerous driving behaviors, and we have talked about most of them before. Distracted driving, drunk driving, aggressive driving – any and all of these can result in an accident with horrific (if not fatal) injuries. But of all the dangerous driving behaviors there are, speeding really may be the worst.

First, let’s look at the numbers.

In 2020, there were 61,739 car crashes in Oklahoma. About 8,000 of them definitely resulted in injuries (the number could be higher) and 197 of them were fatal.

Of those total number of crashes, 7,823 of them (about 12.67%) were speed related. However, those crashes resulted in at least 1,400 injuries and 176 fatalities – meaning speed played a role in 89% of ALL traffic fatalities in Oklahoma in 2020. And given how high our speed limits are, we need to remember that to be counted as “speeding” on most highways, a driver must be doing at least 76 mph.

Is speeding the most common of the dangerous driving behaviors? Likely not – but it is clearly the most deadly.

It’s not always the actual speed that does the damage in a Tulsa car accident

Going fast is not the problem, necessarily. It’s stopping. This is rooted in basic physics: an object in motion will stay in motion unless something stops it. That “something” may be pressure to the brakes, or it may be another object, like a car or a tree.

When two vehicles collide, they exert force and release energy. Depending on a lot of factors (acceleration, mass, force, velocity, other science-y words), the energy will either be absorbed by the car you’re driving, by the car that hit you, or both. A collision between two speeding cars (or between one speeding car and a fixed object) exerts a lot of energy, and that’s why the crashes are so messy. Bits and pieces of the vehicles will fly off into the road, and one (or both) vehicles may spin out and hit other cars, trucks, pedestrians, or nearby objects.

In short? It’s not the speed that’s harmful; it’s the energy exerted when one or both objects suddenly stop as a result of the crash.

Generally, it takes about 1.5 seconds a person to react to, well, anything. That seems pretty fast, right? It seems like plenty of time to stop a car.

As it turns out, 1.5 seconds is enough time to travel at least 280 feet, as Dr. Marc Green, an expert in transportation accidents, explains:

Total stopping distance [for a vehicle traveling at 55mph] consists of three components:

  1. Reaction Distance. First. Suppose the reaction time is 1.5 seconds. This means that the car will travel 1.5 x 80.67 or 120.9 feet before the brakes are even applied.
  2. Brake Engagement Distance. Most reaction time studies consider the response completed at the moment the foot touches the brake pedal. However, brakes do not engage instantaneously. There is an additional time required for the pedal to depress and for the brakes to engage. This is variable and difficult to summarize in a single number because it depends on urgency and braking style. In an emergency, a reasonable estimate is .3 second, adding another 24.2 feet3.
  3. Physical Force Distance. Once the brakes engage, the stopping distance is determined by physical forces (D=S²/(30*f) where S is mph) as 134.4 feet.

Total Stopping Distance = 120.9 ft + 24.2 ft + 134.4 ft = 279.5 ft

On parts of the Muskogee Turnpike, however, your car will travel even farther because the speed limit is higher. According to Automotive Fleet, a vehicle traveling at 80mph travels 117 feet during those 1.5 seconds, and needs 320 feet to stop, creating an overall stopping distance of 439 feet – about 29 car lengths, or about one and one-third football fields.

Who is liable in a Tulsa speeding accident?

In most cases, the liable party is the one who was speeding. If you are hit by a speeding driver in Tulsa, that driver can be held accountable for any injuries and losses you sustain in a car accident.

Other potential liable parties include:

  • Third-party drivers (in the event of a multi-car collision) or parties (like pedestrians or cyclists who enter a roadway suddenly)
  • Construction crews who fail to put up warning signs about changes in speed or lane access
  • Government entities who failed to conduct adequate research into the roads’ design or structure, leading them to increase speed limits in dangerous areas
  • Employers, like trucking companies, if their employees are violating the rules of the road while on the clock
  • Car manufacturers if a defective part caused sudden acceleration or deceleration, blown-out tires, or other issues (like an exploding airbag or defective seat belt) which increased the severity of your injuries

What can you do to reduce your risk of a speed-related accident?

The best offense is a good defense; when it comes to reducing the risk of a speed-related crash, your first move is to avoid the urge to speed. If you don’t quite trust yourself to do that, then stay in the right lane and set your cruise control. Keep your eyes on the road and be aware of other vehicles. You can’t control other people, but you can model good behavior for your kids by following the rules.

If you are injured in a car accident in Tulsa, you have options. Biby Law Firm is here to help you seek justice and compensation for your losses. We are particularly adept at complex injury claims stemming from multi-car accidents, and our willingness to take a case to trial makes us formidable opponents at every stage of any case.  To learn more about our services, or to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Tulsa injury lawyer, please call 918-574-8458, or fill out our contact form.