Why Faster is Deadlier
Traffic accident victims are entitled to pursue compensation when their injuries are caused by a negligent driver. Negligence is another word for carelessness. When a driver causes a collision by violating a traffic safety law, most states will presume that the driver was negligent.
Laws that prohibit driving above the speed limit, like laws that prohibit running red lights and driving while intoxicated, are traffic safety laws. Driving at an unlawful speed is a factor in more than a quarter of all fatal traffic accidents.
The highest percentage of fatal accidents involving a speeding driver occur on rural roads and highways. Speeding is more likely to lead to a deadly accident on a two-lane road than a freeway where all vehicles move in the same direction and never encounter intersections.
The next-highest percentage of accidents resulting from speeding occur on urban streets. While speeds might be slower in an urban environment than a rural highway, the presence of intersections, driveways, bike lanes, and oncoming traffic increases chances of collision.
Factors Affecting Crash Severity
It’s common knowledge that higher speeds increase the probability and severity of traffic accidents. However, one recent study found that head-on and right-angle (T-bone) crashes can cause serious injuries even at speeds as low as 18 mph.
Any collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist can be catastrophic if the vehicle runs over and crushes the pedestrian. Looking only at injuries caused by impact, however, the study found that 12 mph was the threshold speed at which crashes begin to cause serious injuries to pedestrians and bicycle riders.
When two vehicles collide, a number of factors affect the likelihood that the crash will cause a serious injury. One is the relative size of the vehicles. When one vehicle weighs substantially more than another, the mass of the larger vehicle can be a more important factor than speed. Large trucks traveling at relatively slow speeds can cause greater damage than small vehicles traveling at faster speeds.
The angle of impact is also important. A head-on collision can be deadly, but cars are designed with crumple zones and airbags that protect passengers from relatively low-speed crashes. Passengers have less protection from T-bone collisions unless their vehicle is equipped with side-impact airbags. A side-impact collision may also cause a rollover, leading to injuries caused by collapsing roofs and flying debris.
Vehicle construction also plays a role in accident severity. Some vehicles are sturdier than others. Vehicles, like the BMW S-3 and the Lexus RC, have an excellent front crash-prevention system. Even some recent and more affordable Kia and Hyundai sedans have earned high marks in crash testing. Older models, on the other hand, may be less capable of withstanding a crash.
Assuming that a crash involves two vehicles of the same size, a recent study determined that half of all head-on or side-impact collisions of 25 mph will cause a serious injuries. More than three-quarters of head-on or side-impact crashes cause a serious injury at speeds in excess of 30 mph.
Speeding and Driver Negligence
According to the World Health Organization, speeding contributes to 30% of road deaths in high-income nations. Speed has a direct relationship to stopping distances. The faster a vehicle moves, the longer it takes to stop. A driver who sees a bicyclist in the road will have less time to stop or take evasive action when the driver is speeding.
While exceeding a speed limit is strong (and sometimes conclusive) evidence of negligence, drivers may also be negligent when they drive under the speed limit but too fast for road conditions. Drivers may need to slow down to maintain control on a wet road. When rain or fog reduces visibility, drivers who operate at the speed limit may be unable to stop in time to avoid colliding with another car or pedestrian.
A “safe” speed may also depend on the health status of the driver. A driver whose reaction time has been diminished by age or medication may be negligent for driving at a speed that would be safe for a driver with faster reflexes.
When speeding causes or contributes to traffic accident injuries, personal injury lawyers help injury victims obtain the compensation they deserve. Drivers and their insurance companies rarely have a defense against a negligence claim when injuries are caused by driving at an unsafe speed.