Why do Drivers Speed?

Speed is at the core of the road safety problem. In fact, speed is involved in all accidents: no speed, no accidents. In around 30% of the fatal accidents speed is an essential contributory factor. Firstly, speed affects the risk of being involved in an accident.

At a higher speed, it is more difficult to react in time and prevent an accident. Secondly, speed affects the injury consequences of an accident. At a higher (impact) speed, more energy is released when colliding with another vehicle, road user or obstacle. Part of this energy will need to be absorbed by the vulnerable human body. Very strong relationships have been established between speed and accident risk and severity. European Road Safety Observatory [Sic]

Recent research for the AA Foundation found that Speeding is endemic. It is not something just done by a small minority of irresponsible drivers. While there are those who speed "extravagantly to seek thrills", most people do so within what they may claim are accepted social norms.

The data showed drivers aged 17-24 drive the fastest, and then 25 to 58 year olds followed by 58 years plus with Males driving faster than Females. The groups most likely to speed excessively are those driving in a work-related capacity, members of high income households and young males. Motorcyclists are also a serious problem, and HGV drivers commonly exceed the 40 mph limit on single carriageway main roads.

Possible reasons for Drivers breaking the Speed Limit

  • They're late
  • Because their journey is more important than yours
  • They are contemptuous of safe drivers
  • They're in a bad mood
  • Chances of getting caught are low
  • They think they have a right to
  • They have little or no regard for life and property
  • By nature they are impatient
  • They are selfish and full of self-importance
  • They can't help it
  • They like driving fast
  • They are arrogant and self-righteous
  • Their car is faster and newer than yours
  • They think they can drive as well as Lewis Hamilton
  • They do not know what the speed limits are
  • He cut me up first
  • They are in a hurry
  • They do not regard speeding as a serious offence
  • They feel pressured into keeping up with other drivers
  • They did not realize they were speeding
  • They just don't like you being in front of them

While some of the above may well be true, one thing is for sure, a person with these character traits is going to kill or injure an innocent road user. Time and time again perfectly normal rational people mutate into driving demons once behind the wheel of a car. Speeders come in all shapes and sizes, from the young to the old and cross all racial, social and economic boundaries.

Government research has shown that excessive speed is a contributory factor in over 1,000 deaths and over 40,000 injuries every year in the UK.  To avoid being a statistic, drivers need to recognise what it is that triggers their speeding habit so they may alter and restrict this antisocial and dangerous behaviour.

Driving at a higher than reasonable speed increases your risk in two ways: it cuts your reaction time and results in more "stored" energy (that must be dissipated in any collision). You should consider if the risks are worth the gain.

  • The Inability to stop in time is the biggest cause of death on our roads. One in three deaths could have been avoided if the driver had gone slower in towns and on rural roads.
  • Two out of three crashes where people are killed or injured happen on roads where the speed limit is 40mph or less
  • Just over 50% of drivers break the 30mph speed limit. (Vehicle Speeds Great Britain).
  • Drivers are more likely to kill a pedestrian when driving at 40 mph rather than 30 mph.
  • A pedestrian that has been struck by a car moving at 20 mph has a 95% chance of survival.
  • A pedestrian struck by a car moving at 30mph has an 80% of surviving. But if a car moving at 40mph hits a pedestrian, the chances of dying rise to 90%. (80% in the case of a child).
  • Excessive speed is a contributory factor in over 1000 deaths and over 40,000 injuries every year.

Avoid Speeding by adhering to these Green Flag guidelines

Drive at 20mph or lower.
In areas where you are likely to come across pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders, drive at 20mph or lower. Remember! The faster you go, the harder you hit.

Drive well within all limits.
At all times and on all roads drive well within the limits. Check your Speedo if you are not sure of your speed. Believe lower limits - they are there because of hazards ahead. Stay in third gear in 30mph zones. This will help prevent your speed from creeping up.

Give yourself time.
Ensure you have time to slow or stop for the unexpected. Nothing happens "suddenly" to good drivers. Keep your distance. Go slower when you have spotted a hazard.

If you are late ring ahead.
Drive well within the limits and you will arrive relaxed and hardly any later than if you had been speeding.

Being good at driving.
Just because you think that you are a good driver does not mean to say that you can drive faster. The place to test your reaction times is not on a public road.

Having a modern car.
Just because your car allows you to go faster does not mean that you should drive faster. Having ABS brakes won't help the child you hit because you were going too fast.

Ignore speeders.
Do not allow others to influence you to go faster. Slow down and let them overtake in a safe place. One day they will be caught and punished.

For more information on speeding go to


Why do Drivers Speed? Tips and Advice Article No 56 RoadDriver 2010

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