Speed Kills? I Call BS!

I despise when the media distorts the truth with statistics by misrepresenting mere correlation as causation.  It is a mistake of grand magnitude in statistics to do so, but so often the media and even worse the Government perpetuates statistically irrelevant information to the public.  Let me point out some glaring issues with the statement, “Speed Kills”.

The French TGVs are some of the fastest trains in the world, not having killed a single passenger in their entire history.  The Shikansen travels over 180mph every single day carrying hundreds of thousands of people in Japan.  In Germany the Autobahn is home to many of the fastest drivers in the world, traveling over 130mph and sometimes reaching 180-200mph while driving the system.  All of these modes of transport either have no fatalities or are vastly lower in fatalities than our Interstate System is.  Which if you take those things into account, “Speed Kills” isn’t just incorrect, it is an outright lie.

On US roads speed isn’t the culprit, inattention and almost nonexistent training is the killer, rooted in the core cause of people not knowing, not paying attention, and being ill prepared for an incident of any sort.  US drivers don’t understand car balance, driving dynamics, weight distributions of their vehicles, all things which make driving safer or more dangerous depending on the level of knowledge.  The US, simply, has completely unskilled in incapable drivers.  Meanwhile Germany maintains a much higher skill level, a smaller amount of traffic, and provides vastly superior alternatives to driving – all which contribute to a lower fatality rate.  This same thing applies to France, Japan, and other developed nations.

So stop lying, your parents told you not to as a child and you shouldn’t now.

This is a public service announcement via the Transit Sleuth.  Please, do us all a favor and provide real information, factual correlations, and accurate causations.  Fear inducing false causes and incorrect correlations do no one any good and absolutely does NOT help provide solutions to a problem.

If you are a policy maker, stop focusing on speeds and start focusing on training, licensing, and eliminating wreckless drivers from the roadways.  A focus on ticketing speeding will do at best a minimum of good and at worst it will drive more regular people to drive and behave dangerously as the laws get more disconnected from the reality of the roads.

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks, Adron, for a very well written and intelligent post.

    I am tired of the "Speed kills" argument – if speed killed, NASCAR wouldn’t exist because as soon as the cars hit 55 MPH they’d simply crash for no other reason but speed.

    People can and do safely drive faster than 55, 65, even 75 MPH. Oftentimes the reason for lower speed limits isn’t due to the road or the driver, but OTHER drivers. In Eastern Oregon on I-84 there are stretches of road that it’s perfectly safe to do 80, 90 MPH on (and admittedly I’ve done it, without incident) because there’s so little traffic and the people that drive out there generally know the road. Of course there’s that one idiot who doesn’t know the road and gets blindsided by a wind gust, or tries to do the 80 MPH in the middle of January over a half-inch of solid ice, or comes around a corner to find five semis in both lanes…

    Speed is RARELY if ever the cause of an accident. Inattention by the motorist to changing conditions is. Failure to slow for oncoming traffic or congestion is. Failure to safely navigate a curve is. Failure to obey a traffic control device is. Yes, they have speed-related issues, but the cause of the wreck was not speed – again, every car would simply crash once the speedometer hit 56 (or in Oregon, 66, but in Washington it’s 71, and in Montana it’s 76 and in Texas it’s 81.) It’s not to say that speed limits are unimportant, but road design, the abilities of both the vehicle and the operator, and other traffic are important considerations and too often the focus is on simply reducing the speed limit. ODOT, to its credit, at least is very hesitant in reducing speed limits because once a limit is set people are going to do it even if reduced. I think many motorists are a better judge of an appropriate speed over an arbitrarily placed regulatory sign and will adequately speed up – or DOWN – as needed for the conditions. (And for those who aren’t…well…they’ll crash themselves before long.)

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  2. Erik & I are in 1000% sync… yeah, 100% sync wasn’t enough.

    Thx for the comment. Now if that could just become common knowledge – or maybe "common sense" knowledge. 🙂

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  3. But at a higher speed, wouldn’t you have a greater chance of dying? It seems that there would be a difference between hitting something at X MPH versus hitting it at Y MPH. Yes, it may be the crashing that results in death, but the person might survive if they crashed at a slower speed. In addition, isn’t going too fast for conditions "speeding"? Note that "too fast" may be much lower than 55 or 65 MPH outside an open freeway.

    Also, I think NASCAR cars have safety and other things designed for high speeds, since unlike normal vehicles they are expected to go fast.

    Lastly, I’ll agree that many Americans seem to be bad drivers, disregarding signs and doing other bad things (besides speeding).

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  4. No, speed doesn’t particularly mean you’ve increased your opportunity of dying in a wreck either. That’s why the statistic is completely screwed up when the Government issues it as propaganda. They’re not drawing solid causation among these wrecks, they’re pulling rather arbitrary correlations between items that are no particularly related. Nor are these studies usually down in a scientific manner. These studies are pulled from whatever numbers they have from tickets issued and other such things, which often have no baseline – or in scientific experiment terms – there is no control.

    Let’s take this argument and apply it to race relations. According to stats than African Americans cause crime. We know for a fact though that this correlation is absolute bullshit. It is the same incorrect correlation though. Crime is caused by other means, not by the color of one’s skin. Fatal crashes aren’t caused by speeding, there are other criteria which brings a wreck to the conclusion of a fatality.

    Drawing conclusions on correlations that aren’t exactly related is horrible to base policy off of, and the newspaper reporting on these numbers is bad on many levels. It also causes the newspaper to appear biased when the newspaper should be trying to be unbiased.

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  5. I have a couple comments: One, speaking of twisted stats, the yearly traffic deaths are issued periodically, e.g., 147,000. It was released recently stating in headline that fatalities had fallen, and in last paragraph, 145,000 was the number!!
    Also, about the issue of driving, I’ve always said, some people DRIVE the vehicle, i.e., know what their car is doing and respond to it accordingly. Many drivers just "make the car go" having no feel for what’s happening!!
    Adron’s driving instructor, his DAD 🙂

    Reply

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