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Speedsters: What Motivates Them 

3 minute read

Over the past decades the notion that drink driving is dangerous because it increases the risk of crashing and the severity of the crash, has more or less been accepted on a global level. So why has speeding, which similarly increases the risk of crashing and the severity of the crash, not been viewed in a similar light?  

A European survey found that around 20% of drivers reported they drove faster than other drivers. Of these drivers, about 5% said that they drove more dangerously than other drivers meaning they did not believe that speeding is dangerous (1). 

The bottom line is that drivers believe that they are being safe or are safer drivers in general (2). They also believe speeding, to some extent, is safe despite speeding being one of the top three killers on our roads.  

In the event of a crash, vehicle speed directly affects the force of the impact and the resulting trauma outcome. As speed increases, the risk of serious injury or death increases too (3). 

Blurry car speeding down bend in road

While we know speeding is a form of risky driving, it’s interesting to understand why drivers do not acknowledge that it is dangerous. So, let’s have a look into some of the motivators to speeding. 

Though not as simple as what may be presented, motivations for speeding can be largely separated into two larger groups. 

  • Intentional – temporary motives and personality characteristics  
  • Unintentional – human perceptual skills 

Temporary Motives 

Temporary motives or situational motives encourage a motorist to speed in order to achieve something momentarily, and is a form of intentional speeding. The most common temporary motive is to avoid being late and therefore wanting to drive faster than the posted speed limit.  

However, going 5km/h over in a 60km/h zone doubles your crash risk and on an average commute saves drivers just 75 seconds (4). 

Another common reason is the driving environment and feeling the need to ‘match other cars’ speeds’. This comes from the idea that other vehicles are speeding and breaking the speed limit and therefore ‘I need to speed to keep up with the speed of other cars’. Safer roads and driving conditions also lead to the idea that it is ‘okay’ to go over the speed (read about Sweden’s roads). 

Personality Characteristics 

Also falling under intentional speeding motives, these are more permanent human traits such as a need for thrill and risk-taking. In the same European survey, almost 10% of the European drivers agreed that they very much enjoy driving fast. Such people may not be deterred from speeding even after receiving some sort of punishment for their actions, such as a warning or speeding fine.  

Human Perceptual Skills  

While human perceptual skills can be influenced by a range of factors, this mainly falls under not knowing, comprehending or underestimating the speed you are going. A common example is when driving at a high speed for a long period, such as on a highway or country road, which results in the driver underestimating their speed. Furthermore, it becomes more difficult to reduce their speed after driving at a high speed for long periods of times.   

Another rising issue is the perceived ability and time to brake. With car technology ever-evolving, it is easier for vehicles to go faster, especially sports cars, which can affect the perception of speed. This becomes an issue when the driver is unaware of the actual speed they are going due to the decreased discomfort of driving at higher speeds as well as the impression that slowing down is easier and can be done faster than what is actually possible. 

These motivations are not excuses to speed. While speeding may not always be the direct cause of death, it is always a factor in the severity of a crash 

Speeding might not cause the crash but it is what kills you. 

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