Life Slows Down—But Cars Speed Up

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to slow down; stay-at-home orders and partial and total business shutdowns have led to fewer people out on the road than ever before. And, while this led to temporary dramatic decreases in highway traffic and the overall number of motor vehicle collisions across the U.S., another, more disturbing trend began to emerge as time went on.

Reports have begun to show that the rate of people speeding while traveling on highways throughout the U.S. has spiked. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, many states’ law enforcement officials have reported a dramatic increase in the number of people cited for traveling at or over 100 mph. In major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, motorists are speeding at almost 75% higher speeds, on average, than on a typical day. In Multnomah County, Oregon, a motorist was ticketed for traveling at 105 mph in a 55-mph zone and in Sandy Springs, Georgia, a motorcyclist was cited for going 172 mph (source). And, according to KCRG, almost 170 people were cited for going over 100 mph in Iowa in March alone.

Things are no different here in Washington State, where State Patrols have reported increased numbers of people speeding, often in excess of 100 mph and, in many cases, at more than twice the posted speed limit. While there are no concrete numbers yet regarding the number of people speeding in Washington State in the past few weeks, state law enforcement has reported citing drivers traveling at speeds of 98 mph, 113 mph, 127 mph, and even 192 mph.

Traffic Related Deaths on the Rise

Initially, news outlets were reporting that the one silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic was the drop in overall traffic accidents and related fatalities; now, those reports have changed as dramatically increased rates of speeding and the number of motorists going 100 mph or more have spiked. In fact, in Washington State and across the nation, despite a fewer number of actual collisions, the fatality rate of traffic accidents has actually increased, and it’s largely thanks to speeding.

What makes speeding so deadly?

  • Force of Impact: When a moving object collides with another moving object or a stationary object, the force of the impact is determined by the rate of speed at which one or both objects was moving. The greater the speed, the greater the impact—and the more severe the damage.
  • Loss of Control: At higher speeds, even the most experienced motorists are far more likely to lose control of their vehicles. Higher speeds equate to less traction and a greater risk of spinning out, colliding with other vehicles, and becoming involved in serious accidents.
  • Increased Stopping Time: Contrary to common misconception, traveling at twice the normal rate of speed doesn’t mean stopping time doubles; it actually means stopping time quadruples. The faster someone travels, the more time they need to slow or stop to avoid obstacles.
  • Reduced Reaction Time: Excessive speeding results in dramatically reduced reaction time, meaning motorists are unable to react to changing traffic and/or road conditions in time. They may overcorrect to avoid a collision, only to cause a serious accident.
  • Lowered Effectiveness of Safety Devices: Speeding reduces the effectiveness of a vehicle’s safety devices, such as airbags and seatbelts. The faster a person is driving, the less these devices will protect them in the event of a collision.

How to Stay Safe

Here at the Law Offices of Harold D. Carr, P.S., we want to remind you that speeding is never okay. While it can be easy to find your speedometer creeping up as you travel down an empty highway, it is absolutely critical that you remain aware of your speed at all times. And, while you might find yourself going 80 mph without realizing it, driving 100 mph or more is a choice. Don’t make that choice.

The best way to stay safe while out on the roads is to never speed and avoid those who are speeding or otherwise driving recklessly. Be aware of other drivers; check your rearview and side mirrors often and if another motorist comes up quickly behind you, put on your blinker and move over safely as soon as you are able to do so. Do not engage in road rage behaviors or speed up when confronted by someone who is speeding. Instead, practice defense (not aggressive) driving techniques and give reckless drivers a wide berth. If you believe your safety or the safety of others is in jeopardy, safely exit the highway, pull over where it is legal and safe to do so, and contact local law enforcement.

If you were involved in a car accident, whether with someone who was speeding or simply being negligent, contact the Law Offices of Harold D. Carr, P.S. for a free, confidential consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. With several office locations throughout Washington State, we serve clients in Tacoma, Olympia, Lakewood, West Olympia, Puyallup, and Federal Way.