Speeding and Social Norms


Breaking the Law, Breaking the Law

Speeding might be the most common law broken. We’ve all been guilty at one point or another and it’s a common place occurrence that’s practically expected of drivers. Most of us can’t stand to drive behind someone who is coasting anywhere near the posted speed limit. So what do we do? Either tailgate or zoom passed them.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Speeding doesn’t seem like a big deal because we assume that we’re in complete control behind the wheel. That’s so far from the truth that it sounds a little funny once you think about it. There are unpredictable environmental factors that can make speeding dangerous. Road hazards like animals crossing in front of traffic, traffic suddenly stopping in front of us, or mistakes from drivers around us are out of our hands. If a driver is speeding and encounters any sudden environmental changes, the risk of an accident is greatly increased.

Speeding Kills

It’s been said before but I’ll say it again: speed kills. Speeding is the 3rd leading contributing factor in all crashes and occurs in 33% of all fatal crashes. Somewhere in our brain, each of us knows that speeding is a risk. We decide, though, that it’s worth it. Here’s an important question to ask: why do people speed? It might be because we’re running late or we’re impatient, but the overarching reason for why people speed is that it’s a social norm, which influences behavior more than the law does.

Do the Math

It’s important to point out that speeding is socially enforced because, truth be told, speeding doesn’t make much sense. It certainly doesn’t save time. For example, let’s say you’re driving a total distance of 15 miles. If the average speed limit is 55 mph, before accounting for traffic or stop lights, it would take you 16.36 minutes to arrive at your destination. Want to shave off some time? Well, it turns out that if you travel at an average of 65 mph in this situation, you’ll save yourself less than 3 minutes. Kind of surprising how little of a difference it makes, but that’s math. Take the distance in miles traveled, divide it by your speed in miles per hour, and multiply it by 60 to convert it to minutes.

Time Machine

Before the 70’s, it was completely acceptable to not wear a seat belt. Before the 90’s, it was normal to smoke in a restaurant. In my grandparent’s generation, many people got married as a teenager. Social norms take time to change, but eventually they can be reversed. It starts with awareness. It’s hard to imagine a time and place where no one goes above the speed limit, but what about drivers respecting the space of those choosing to drive at, or below, the limit? That’s a good start, and it could save lives.