Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt on July 27, 2017, joined track, soccer, baseball, basketball and football coaches everywhere in emphasizing, “Speed kills.”
Sumwalt shared the aphorism without giving it its usual metaphorical overtones while announcing his agency’s initial release of data from a safety study titled Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles. He and his team noted in a press release, “The study links speeding to 112,580 passenger vehicle highway crash fatalities between 2005-2014. To put that number in perspective, nearly the same number of people – 112,948 – died in alcohol-involved crashes in the same period.”
Passenger vehicles include cars, motorcycles, pickup trucks, minivans, SUVs and passenger vans. The NTSB and other federal agencies have long called attention to the dangers of heavy trucks and buses going too fast. The new report focuses on the smaller vehicles that people are most likely driver and get hit by.
CBS This Morning further quoted Sumwalt on the need for the shift in attention: “Every mile an hour that you increase by, you’re increasing your likelihood of a crash, This study showed that we can improve the way that we set speed limits and enforce speed limits.”
NTSB’s principal recommendations for enhancing enforcement center around the idea of automating the process. Proposals include putting up speed limit signs that display vehicle speeds in relation to posted limits, authorizing speed cameras that trigger the issuing of tickets like red light cameras, and, down the line, using radar or laser technology called LIDAR to track vehicle travel time from one location to another. Under the last system, arriving at a destination much sooner than would be expected when sticking to the speed limit would result in a speeding ticket.
Safety officials believe drivers and police must pay more attention to speeding because both exceeding a posted speed limit and driving too fast for conditions reduce reaction time and increase stopping time. Speeding also raises the force of impacts, worsening injuries and raising fatalities — especially for pedestrians.
The problem will not be easy to solve. Decades of data compiled by speed-recording signs and radar gun-wielding officers in Fairfax County, Virginia (VA), indicate that the average driver exceeds the speed limit by 7-8 mph at any given time. Speaking with CBS, the county’s police captain, Michael Grinnan, said, “We’re looking at where [speed-related] accidents occur and how we change people’s behaviors in terms of speeding and driving more safely. I think the biggest way to do that is just by being present out there.”
As experienced Carolina personal injury and wrongful death attorneys, my colleagues and I did not need this reminder from the NTSB. Every day we speak with clients who suffered injuries or lost a family member to a driver who ignored a speed limit or refused to slow down in bad weather, a construction zone, or while approaching a stoplight. We do hope drivers get the message NTSB is sending.
An experienced personal injury attorney with dual licensure in Virginia and North Carolina, Eric Washburn received a B.B.A. in Finance from James Madison University—initially worked in the information technology field before obtaining his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Once an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Danville, Va., Eric has been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star” Super Lawyer in Virginia since 2014.