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Auto and Road User Journal
July 17, 1998
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Speeding

Traffic Safety Facts 1996

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Speeding -- exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions -- is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes. The human and economic sacrifice is unacceptable. The economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is estimated by NHTSA to be $28.8 billion per year. In 1996, speeding was a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes, and 12,998 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes cost society an estimated $4,800 per second. The total economic cost of crashes was estimated at $150.5 billion in 1994. The 1996 costs of speeding-related crashes were estimated to be $28.8 billion -- $54,804 per minute or $913 per second.


In 1996, 624,000 people received minor injuries in speeding-related crashes. An additional 75,000 people received moderate injuries, and 41,000 received critical injuries in speeding-related crashes.

Speeding reduces a driver's ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the roadway, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle, and increases the distance a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation.

For drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are the most likely to be speeding. The relative proportion of speeding-related crashes to all crashes decreases with increasing driver age. In 1996, 36 percent of the male drivers 15 to 20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.

Alcohol and speeding seem to go hand in hand. In 1996, 22 percent of the speeding drivers under 21 years old who were involved in fatal crashes were also intoxicated, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 (grams per deciliter [g/dl]) or greater. In contrast, only 9 percent of the nonspeeding drivers under age 21 involved in fatal crashes in 1996 were intoxicated.

For drivers between 21 and 24 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 1996, 47 percent of speeding drivers were intoxicated, compared with only 19 percent of nonspeeding drivers.


Alcohol and speeding are clearly a deadly combination. Alcohol involvement is prevalent for drivers involved in speeding-related crashes. In 1996, 42 percent of the intoxicated drivers (BAC = 0.10 or higher) involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with only 14 percent of the sober drivers (BAC = 0.00) involved in fatal crashes (Figure 3).

For both speeding and nonspeeding drivers involved in fatal crashes, the percentage of those who had been drinking, with BAC 0.01 or greater, at the time the crash occurred was higher at night than during the day. Between midnight and 3 am, 78 percent of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.

In 1996, 42 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding. The percentage of speeding involvement in fatal crashes was nearly twice as high for motorcyclists as for drivers of passenger cars or light trucks, and the percentage of alcohol involvement was 50 percent higher for motorcyclists.

In 1996, only 37 percent of speeding passenger vehicle drivers under 21 years old who were involved in fatal crashes were wearing safety belts at the time of the crash. In contrast, 58 percent of nonspeeding drivers in the same age group were restrained. For drivers 21 years and older, the percentage of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes who were using restraints at the time of the crash was 35 percent, but 64 percent of nonspeeding drivers in fatal crashes were restrained.

In 1996, 20 percent of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes had an invalid license at the time of the crash, compared with 9 percent of nonspeeding drivers.

Speeding was a factor in 29 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred on dry roads in 1996 and in 32 percent of those that occurred on wet roads. Speeding was a factor in 47 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred when there was snow or slush on the road and in 54 percent of those that occurred on icy roads.

Speeding was involved in more than one-third of the fatal crashes that occurred in construction/maintenance zones in 1996.

In 1996, 87 percent of speeding-related fatalities occurred on roads that were not Interstate highways.

Table 2. Speeding-Related Traffic Fatalities and Costs by Road Type and Speed Limit, 1996

State Total

Traffic

Fatalities

Speeding-Related Fatalities by Road Type and Speed Limit Estimated Costs of Speeding-Related Crashes by Road Type

(Million 1994 Dollars)

Total Interstate Non-Interstate
>55 mph 55 mph and under 55 mph 50 mph 45 mph 40 mph 35 mph <35 mph Total Interstate Non-Interstate
AL 1,143 432 37 11 157 16 109 29 39 26 483 58 425
AK 80 29 1 5 6 0 4 1 2 4 64 11 53
AZ 993 286 29 19 46 15 49 35 37 38 501 75 426
AR 615 227 11 9 126 0 21 11 15 17 300 35 265
CA 3,989 1,435 230 15 385 55 126 113 179 142 3,108 462 2,646
CO 617 266 39 8 98 15 27 23 25 30 433 67 366
CT 310 87 0 8 8 0 10 7 17 37 377 47 330
DE 116 24 0 1 4 11 0 3 2 3 66 7 59
DC 62 30 0 1 0 2 4 0 2 21 102 10 92
FL 2,753 722 51 36 128 29 119 66 84 92 1,638 221 1,416
GA 1,574 367 28 18 168 7 46 13 47 36 791 104 687
HI 148 52 0 3 5 1 6 0 18 19 130 14 116
ID 258 101 15 1 29 14 7 0 14 10 124 18 106
IL 1,477 484 33 48 215 5 18 30 7 128 1,229 179 1,048
IN 984 207 12 11 58 8 17 19 21 32 506 67 439
IA 465 64 9 0 24 5 7 0 10 8 212 29 183
KS 491 128 7 3 52 4 4 8 9 17 241 27 214
KY 841 253 13 6 165 0 19 0 38 8 416 46 370
LA 781 160 9 8 73 7 21 7 18 15 452 58 394
ME 169 76 2 1 11 16 27 3 9 6 140 14 126
MD 608 93 3 8 10 11 6 17 10 23 525 70 455
MA 417 111 19 6 5 2 8 16 23 30 681 101 580
MI 1,505 369 28 19 178 8 35 12 34 45 997 134 864
MN 576 159 2 8 102 7 8 1 4 21 359 39 320
MS 811 140 20 7 49 19 16 11 8 9 217 34 183
MO 1,149 470 52 15 216 4 21 27 49 43 706 99 607
MT 200 85 5 1 22 0 3 0 4 3 100 20 80
NE 293 81 16 0 11 29 2 2 3 6 169 27 143
NV 348 113 19 0 9 4 29 0 17 14 216 32 184
NH 134 30 0 2 3 3 2 6 7 7 79 9 70
NJ 818 83 0 14 12 20 5 6 2 23 1,017 140 877
NM 481 180 30 2 44 15 15 4 24 15 240 37 203
NY 1,564 409 10 15 163 16 17 26 18 53 2,242 277 1,965
NC 1,493 531 22 15 334 2 79 1 70 6 969 106 864
ND 85 45 1 0 35 1 1 0 1 3 55 4 51
OH 1,395 357 23 6 203 3 23 12 44 38 1,242 153 1,089
OK 772 347 47 8 66 15 46 21 14 12 425 63 362
OR 524 144 11 2 90 0 8 12 14 6 274 32 242
PA 1,469 533 28 20 160 12 114 66 87 41 1,108 130 979
RI 69 25 0 4 1 5 1 0 2 12 84 12 72
SC 930 434 40 14 177 12 89 19 45 38 511 66 445
SD 175 46 5 2 20 1 8 1 1 1 71 10 61
TN 1,239 332 23 14 124 10 56 38 26 41 571 71 500
TX 3,741 1,464 163 61 274 48 114 101 115 122 2,468 361 2,107
UT 321 88 28 2 17 7 3 14 4 10 163 33 130
VT 88 48 5 1 1 22 1 7 8 3 60 8 52
VA 875 236 22 10 129 1 35 4 17 15 598 81 517
WA 712 249 22 3 51 49 15 14 45 38 634 78 556
WV 345 98 12 1 51 2 7 3 15 7 182 24 157
WI 761 208 13 4 119 2 16 4 10 26 461 54 407
WY 143 60 15 0 5 3 5 2 2 11 71 15 56
USA* 41,907 12,998 1,210 476 4,439 543 1,429 815 1,316 1,411 28,805 3,868 24,937
PR 601 297 0 88 12 10 61 25 60 41 659 195 464
*Of the total number of speeding-related fatalities in 1996, 5,636 occurred on roads with posted speed limits between 55 and 65 mph, and 547 occurred on roads with speed limits above 65 mph.

Notes: Totals may not equal sum of components due to independent rounding. The total column for speeding-related fatalities includes fatalities that occurred on roads for which the speed limit was unknown. The total column for costs of speeding-related crashes includes costs for crashes that occurred on unknown road types. Costs are based on preliminary estimates.



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