When driving at high speeds, crashes are more likely to occur and more deadly when they do. In a recent year, the death toll in the United States as a result of speed-related collisions was nearly 9,500 lives, about 26% of traffic fatalities. Overall, for more than two decades, speeding has been a contributing factor in about one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities.
So, speeding is not a new problem, but it’s gotten worse during the pandemic.
“Though speed management has been a problem for decades, speeding became even more acute during the Covid-19 pandemic, as less traffic has prompted some motorists to drive at high speeds on highways and city streets across the nation,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said in a statement.
Along with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Road Safety Foundation, the Governors Highway Safety Association hopes to help tackle the problem. On Thursday the three safety organizations announced they will work together to fund and evaluate pilot projects by two states to reduce speeding by encouraging drivers to slow down.
“Unfortunately, this problem won’t go away when the pandemic ends,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement. “By working with other road safety groups, we can use these initiatives to speak with one voice to keep the attention focused on one of the most common factors in serious crashes.”
In addition to lost lives, there’s a financial toll. The cost of speed-related crashes in this country is about $52 billion each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Maryland and Virginia will each receive $100,000 to develop, implement and evaluate speed management pilot programs that strengthen engineering, enforcement, education, public outreach and advocacy, the safety groups said.
Maryland’s project will be located in a rural setting; Virginia’s will be urban.
The goal of the collaboration is to develop a template for effective speed reduction strategies that other states and communities can eventually duplicate. However, in the meantime, the safety organizations launched other activities, initiatives and publications related to speeding.
The Governors Highway Safety Association, for example, issued alerts about the dangers of excessive speeding observed nationwide at the beginning of the pandemic, sponsored traffic safety campaigns and speed management webinars, and released research on pedestrians, bicyclists and other micromobility users, who are often put at risk by speeding drivers. A recent report addressed the crucial role speeding plays in teen driver fatalities. The study, which highlighted that this unsafe behavior is often passed down from parent to child, offered practical tips to help parents “rein in this lethal driving habit.”
Among the Insurance Institute’s contributions were research showing: how a low-cost engineering change can slow drivers making left turns to make intersections safer for pedestrians; how speed limit increases were tied to a significant number of deaths; and in conjunction with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, how a series of crash tests demonstrated how speed limit increases are canceling out protections of more crash worthy vehicle designs and technologies, like airbags.
The National Road Safety Foundation focused on raising awareness about the dangers of speed among teens across the country by sponsoring regional contests that invite them to develop scripts for TV public service announcements.
“Speeding has always been a major factor in teen traffic deaths, and the fact that roads are less crowded during the pandemic is a recipe for disaster,” Michelle Anderson, the foundation’s director of operations, said in a statement. “Young people, who are less experienced behind the wheel, may see the open roads as an invitation to speed. But driving is a skill that requires good judgement, which is why we have dedicated ourselves to engaging young people to use their creativity to develop messages that speak to their peers and adults to be responsible drivers.”
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