No Need for Speed
By: Molli Hurley | SADD National Student Leadership Council
For a teen driver with a set of keys and the open road, there is often the urge to put the pedal to the medal. However, this freedom should not allow safety to be thrown out of the window. Teens often feel a need for speed, creating a critical safety issue on the roadway. In fact, NHTSA found that speeding was a factor in 32 percent of fatal crashes that involved teen drivers in passenger vehicles in 2016.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has identified three basic ways that speed can influence the risk of vehicle crashes and injuries. First, by the time that the driver realizes that a reaction is needed, they have traveled closer to the danger. Next, the faster the vehicle is going, the harder the driver will have to brake to avoid a crash. Finally, increased speed will result in a harder, more dangerous crash. With that being said, the posted speed limit is not a suggestion. It should be taken seriously, as it is set for your safety. Exceeding the speed limit is a dangerous move to make, especially if the driving conditions are less than ideal. When you’re in the driver seat, you’re responsible for ensuring that your speed matches the conditions of the roadway. For example, if there is ice on the road, going the posted speed limit of sixty miles per hour would not be the best course of action for that scenario. As teens, we have to get in the habit of being attentive to the road and its conditions, particularly when there’s inclement weather, winding roads, traffic stops, or other situations where speed may need to be adjusted for your safety, as well as the safety of others.
Have you heard of this three-second rule? This is a rule of thumb for maintaining a safe following distance on the roadway that I picked up from The National Road Safety Foundation’s #DrivingSkills101 Passport to Safe Driving! When driving, pick a stationary object along the road, like a speed limit sign, a tree, or a telephone pole, and when the vehicle in front of you passes that object, start counting in your head. Count slowly "one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand" and note when your vehicle passes that object. The 3-second rule is a great benchmark to give you a visual of what your speed should be, however, it only applies during good, daylight driving conditions. If you are driving in heavy traffic, driving at night, or in adverse weather conditions, such as rain or fog, consider doubling the 3-second rule to six seconds as a safety precaution. If the weather conditions are very poor, like heavy rain or heavy fog, try tripling it to nine seconds to maintain a safe driving distance. Following this rule will play a key role in reducing your risk of a crash, and the severity of a rear-end collision.
When you get behind the wheel and hit the road, keep in mind that you’re still gaining driving experience with every mile you travel. Avoid making speeding a habit by paying attention to your speedometer and being attentive to the roadway conditions. Leaving ample time to drive to your destination can reduce the temptation to speed so you get to your destination safely, too. After all, what destination is so important that you would be willing to risk your life and the lives of others you share the road with? Join me in driving safely and defensively, SADD Nation!