Whoa There! The Greater the Speed, the Greater the Collision

By Lesley Green
A white SUV speeding along the road heading into a curve.

Study confirms speeding increases risk of injury.

  • High-speed collisions override the benefits of your car’s safety features.
  • Collisions at speeds of 80 and 90 km/h can lead to life-altering, if not life-threatening, injuries.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of drivers who have been pulled over for speeding said they didn’t realize they were speeding.

It’s more than a catchphrase. It’s reality: Speeding kills (and injures and maims). Even so, most drivers admit to speeding. An InsuranceHotline.com survey last year found that seven in 10 drivers (68%) admit they regularly drive five to 15 km/hour faster than the posted speed limit.

As commonplace as speeding is, you’d think it wasn’t dangerous. But it is dangerous, and drivers are taking a risk every time they apply a little extra pressure to the gas pedal. What’s more, a new study finds you don’t have to speed excessively to do a lot of damage; moderate increases in a driver’s speed are all it takes.

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The study, a collaboration between the AAA Foundation, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and Humanetics (a manufacturer of crash test dummies), examined how speed affects the likelihood and severity of injury in a crash. It looked specifically at injuries sustained by people in a vehicle travelling at different speeds; 40, 50, and 56 mph (approximately 65, 80, and 90 km/h, respectively).

  • At 40 mph, there was minimal intrusion into the driver’s personal safety space. That means the driver’s safety bubble was largely maintained as there was little movement of the vehicle’s interior components (door, steering wheel, and footwell).
  • At 50 mph, there was noticeable damage to the driver side door, dashboard, and foot area. The steering wheel moved enough to compromise the location of its airbag. As a result, sensors on crash test dummies registered the potential for facial fractures and brain injuries.
  • At 56 mph, the vehicle’s interior was significantly compromised. Also, the steering wheel moved enough to compromise the location of its airbag. As a result, sensors on the crash test dummies registered the potential for facial fractures, brain injuries, severe neck injuries, and fractures to the lower leg.

“Higher speed limits cancel out the benefits of vehicle safety improvements like airbags and improved structural designs,” said Dr. David Harkey, IIHS president. “The faster a driver is going before a crash, the less likely it is that they’ll be able to get down to a survivable speed even if they have a chance to brake before impact.”

Why is speeding dangerous? Why do drivers speed?

Even without the IIHS study, most people know speeding increases your chances of injuries if in a collision. The risk of being in a crash increases too.

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) says speeding is dangerous because: “High speeds reduce the ability of drivers to stop in time, it reduces the manoeuvrability of the vehicle to avoid a crash, limits drivers’ ability to safely negotiate curves and corners, and causes them to misjudge gaps or distance between vehicles.”

In a nutshell: The faster you go, the more likely you will be involved in a collision. So why do drivers speed? Our survey last year found that of the drivers who admitted being pulled over for speeding, nearly a quarter (23%) said they didn’t even realize they were doing it.

Top 5 reasons drivers give for speeding when caught.

Speeding towards higher auto insurance premiums

Although it is safety that is paramount, speeding has other ramifications too. There’s the threat of a speeding ticket as well, which is a fast way to higher auto insurance rates. A minor speeding ticket, for example, could result in a 10% increase in premiums. But that’s only if it’s your first ticket. If you already have a ticket on your driving record, you could see a premium increase as much as 15%. It’s not a short-lived hit to the wallet either; a speeding ticket will only clear off your driving record after three years.

Chances are, you already pay a lot for your car insurance. Why make it worse? Keep an eye on your speedometer for safer roads and lower auto insurance rates.