NHTSA: Drivers Aware Of Dangers, But Many Still Speed

Modern cars make it easier than ever to speed, sometimes even unintentionally.

It’s widely accepted as common knowledge that speeding is dangerous. In fact, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, nearly half of motorists acknowledge that speeding is a problem on U.S. roads and that something needs to be done to fix it. However, automakers are now building cars that make it increasingly easy to break speed limits, sometimes unintentionally.

The recently released National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior shows a somewhat contradictory attitude toward speeding in the U.S. Nearly 10,000 people die every year in traffic-related accidents, and speeding is a factor in almost a third of these fatalities, according to NHTSA. Ninety-one percent of respondents agreed that “everyone should obey the speed limits because it’s the law,” and eighty percent believed that following speed limits makes it easier to respond safely to dangerous situations.

Unsurprisingly, many drivers are well aware of the risks of speeding despite professing to do it on a regular basis. One in five admitted, “I try to get where I am going as fast as I can,” while more than 25 percent of respondents replied, “speeding is something I do without thinking,” and, “I enjoy the feeling of driving fast.” Sixteen percent even thought that it wasn’t even dangerous for skilled drivers to exceed speed limits.

Setting aside the dizzying array of entertainment features that can easily distract drivers from realizing they are speeding (touch screens being a major culprit), it is difficult to be shocked by this kind of response when modern cars comprehensively facilitate driving fast.

Not only are today’s cars quicker and more powerful than ever, improvements in ride comfort and reduced road noise significantly reduce the sensation of danger that is inherent to excessive speeding—90 mph in your average sedan doesn’t feel terribly different than 65 mph. Advanced safety features ranging from complex airbag systems to state-of-the art active safety technology further diminish perceived risk and injury, while huge gains in fuel-efficiency cut down on consumption at high speeds.

“We all have places we need to go, but it’s never the right decision to put ourselves, our families and others in harm’s way to get there faster,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned in a statement. “This is another reminder, as the busy holiday season approaches, to obey speed limits, reduce speed in inclement weather conditions and allow plenty of time to arrive safely.”