Can you imagine this situation: you are breaking the speed limit on the highway, and you know it. You fly past a sign that says “Speed kills,” and suddenly you are almost on top of a slow car in front of you. You try to brake but realize that at that high speed it takes much longer to slow down in such a short space of time. Fortunately, this time, you narrowly miss the car.
Hopefully, the above account does not apply to you and me. Yet, it does reveal certain speeding characteristics which will be discussed further and that we see happening on our roads quite often.
Before we discuss the danger aspects of speeding, speeding causes you to be in immediate trouble with the law. The Justice Project of South Africa (JPSA) says that according to the 2008 AARTO Regulations, it is a criminal act to exceed any speed limit by 40 km/hour or more. In other words, you can be arrested to appear in court if you are travelling at a 100 km/hour in a 60 km/hour zone, 120 km/hour in an 80 km/hour zone, and 160 km/hour in a 120 km/hour zone, such as on the highway.
Not many motorists realize that exceeding the speed limit causes a car’s fuel consumption to increase, and as a result the car may also release greater CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. This may further be accompanied with increased noise pollution.
Motorists can say what they like, and can even go into denial, but speeding has been proven to kill. The reason for a speed limit is not to spoil the fun of motorists, but rather to cater for the safety in a specific zone through which motorists have to travel. For instance, in a built-up suburb, there are schools, community halls, and shopping centres. There are so many hazards for a driver to consider, such as cyclists, dogs, cars coming out of driveways, and traffic lights – just to name a few. Hence, 60 km/hour is deemed to be the suitable speed limit for that particular type of zone.
Many drivers may not fully understand what “speeding” entails. Travelling at 120 km/hour along the highway means that in 1.5 seconds your car covers a distance of 50 metres or half a rugby field. At 140 km/hour this distance increases to 59 metres, and at 160 km/hour it is 66 metres. To give you some perspective, the average length of a car is about 4.8 metres. If cars could be parked head-to-tail in a single line with no gaps between them, at 120 km/hour and in 1.5 seconds, a car covers a distance of 10 cars, at 140 km/hour, 12 cars, and at 160 km/hour, 14 cars.
Humans can only react so fast. This is why speeding is so dangerous. On average, it requires 1.5 seconds for a driver to decide on what evasive action they need to take and then implement it in the event of an impending crash. After 1.5 seconds, a car travelling at 120 km/hour would have already travelled 50 metres.
The more a speed limit is exceeded, the worse any response from a driver becomes, because human faculties do not speed up – they still remain at the same response time. However, cars, objects or curves in the road lying ahead appear that much quicker. In addition, other drivers are accustomed to cars approaching them at a maximum of 120 km/hour, and they may well not know how to handle a car bearing down at them at 160 km/hour.
To think of it another way, the distance covered in 1.5 seconds at 120 km/hour is 50 metres. This is considered a safe distance by the traffic authorities otherwise there would not be that speed limit. However, at 140 km/hour, the distance of 50 metres is covered in 0.85 seconds, while at 160 km/hour, 50 metres is covered in 0.75 seconds. We can now see how speed becomes more and more demanding on the decision-making process of the driver.
At high speeds, most vehicles are not able to cope with the enormous forces that are at play should they crash. Even airbags and safety belts can only protect up to a point. Their ‘power’ to shield you from danger is not infinite.
There is a greater chance that teenagers will speed compared to older drivers. They are also more likely to tailgate. This is largely due to driving experience and even wanting to show off.
Doubling the speed from 60 km/hour to 120 km/hour does not mean that the braking distance doubles – in fact, it quadruples. It takes 6 seconds and a distance of nearly the entire length of a rugby field (92 metres) to completely stop a car travelling at 89 km/hour. It makes you think, doesn’t it?
By travelling more slowly, you are being considerate not only to yourself but also to other drivers, because you have a much greater chance and time for choosing safer options when confronted with difficulty on the road. Just travelling 15 km/hour slower could prevent you from crashing. So, enjoy the drive and avoid speeding.