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Speed is involved in about one out of three fatal crashes, according to NHTSA. It is the third leading contributing factor to traffic crashes. But while injuries and fatalities due to other dangerous behaviors, such as driving while impaired and not wearing seatbelts, have been significantly reduced, speeding is still a challenge. 

NHTSA defines a crash as speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit contributed to the crash.

Surveys find that although people name speeding as a threat to their safety when other drivers around them are speeding, the majority say they also speed when driving. There are many reasons why people speed. According to Focus on Safety: A Practical Guide to Automated Traffic Enforcement, drivers speed because:

  • They’re in a hurry.
  • They’re inattentive to their driving.
  • They don’t take traffic laws seriously; they don’t think the laws apply to them.
  • They don’t view their driving behavior as dangerous.
  • They don’t expect to get caught.
  • Some or all of the above.

Speeding results in:

  • Lives lost – over 13,000 each year.
  • Work zone crashes and fatalities – speed was a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes in construction and maintenance zones in 2005.
  • Unsafe school zones – compliance with lower speed limits is poor.
  • Economic costs -- speed-related crashes cost society over $40 billion annually, according to NHTSA. Every minute "gained" by speeding to a destination costs U.S. society over $76,000.

Speeding is often one of several risky factors in fatal crashes, because alcohol-impaired drivers are more likely to speed, and speeding drivers are less likely to wear seat belts. Alcohol, lack of seat belts and speeding can add up to a deadly combination.

Young males are the most likely to be involved in speeding-related crashes. According to 2007 NHTSA data, 39 percent of male drivers age 15-20 who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.

People often think of highways as a major factor for speeding fatalities, perhaps because speeds are highest on highways. But the vast majority of speeding-related fatalities happen on roads that are not interstate highways. NHTSA's 2006 fatality data shows that 47 percent of speed-related fatalities occurred on roads posted at 50 mph or less, and more than 20 percent occurred on roads posted at 35 mph or less.

Challenges to Change

Speeding is a habitual driver behavior. Although drivers name speeding as dangerous to their safety, most still speed. Educational campaigns alone have not effectively reduced crashes. Speed management is often not a priority backed by political will. Speed limits that are not set for the road environment and traffic conditions tend to not be respected by drivers. Law enforcement has many competing enforcement challenges. Speed enforcement can be lower priority, and lax enforcement is noticed by drivers and reflected in their behavior.

Nevertheless, there is evidence of effective strategies to reduce speeding-related crashes, and the above challenges make attention to these strategies important:

Effective Strategies


Automated speed enforcement brings reductions in speed and crashes where it is implemented. Additionally, speeds and crashes tend to increase when automated speed enforcement programs are discontinued. This technology has an advantage by providing visible and ongoing enforcement with minimal disruption of traffic flow. In addition, it doesn't have the disadvantages of traditional law enforcement techniques of observation, chase and citation, which can be hazardous and expensive and are not desirable for high-risk areas like work zones. Media and local education campaigns should accompany speed cameras so the public is aware, and sound safety-oriented operational guidelines should be followed. Resources:

Focus on Safety: A Practical Guide to Automated Traffic Enforcement

Speed Enforcement Camera Systems - Operational Guidelines

NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Automated Speed Enforcement in School Zones in Portland, Oregon

NSC Position/Policy Statement on Auto Enforcement



Highly-visible enforcement blitzes accompanied by media campaigns informing the public about enforcement have proven effective at reducing impaired driving and increasing seat belt use. This strategy is also used to enforce speed limits. NHTSA's Speed Campaign Tool Kit provides media materials to enhance an enforcement campaign.

The Guide for Addressing Aggressive-Driving Collisions suggests that successful anti-aggressive driving programs place an emphasis on enforcing all traffic laws including speeding. This strategy increases respect and the public’s expectation that all laws should be obeyed.



According to Countermeasures that Work, company policies backed up with speed monitors and logs or even speed regulators, can reduce commercial vehicle speeding.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) CMV Driving Tips: Too Fast for Conditions



Road environment engineering measures can significantly reduce speeds. In particular, traffic calming measures can reduce speeds on local roads, decreasing risk to vehicle occupants as well as pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) provides a Traffic Calming Website with engineering resources:

ITE Traffic Calming Measures

ITE Traffic Calming Library



NSC Research & Statistical Services -- Injury Facts® is a complete reference source for safety statistics. Includes child safety seat and booster seat data. 


NHTSA Fatal Analysis Reporting System National database providing annual data on motor vehicle crash fatal injuries.

NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data - Speeding 

CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Statistics Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), death and injury charts, and more.



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