But Everyone's Doing It - On the Dangers of Speeding


Speed Monitor on the side of road.
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Speeding is one of those things that we all know we’re not supposed to. If driving had a list of 10 commandments, ‘Thou Shall Not Speed’ would definitely be up there. But when we’re on the road, all of us see people all the time who are pushing past the speed limit. Which begs the question, is speeding really all that dangerous?


One reader of the Globe and Mail wrote in to ask this very question of Jason Tchir, a car critic for the Globe and Mail’s Drive section. Her question is a good one, and worth quoting in full:


“I don’t know anyone who think it’s okay to drive while texting or while drunk. But I know a lot of people, including my adult children, who think nothing of going 20 or 30 km/h above the speed limit. They say everybody speeds because speed limits aren’t realistic, I say speed limits are there for a reason. Is speeding more dangerous than they think?”

It may not surprise you to learn that the answer from Tchir was an emphatic ‘yes,’ but Tchir doesn't stop there, instead turning to various prominent driver safety experts who gave overwhelming and compelling evidence for why speeding is absolutely dangerous, regardless of the laxity some people feel towards it.


One of the people he spoke to was Robyn Robertson, the president and CEO of the Traffic Inquiry Research Foundation (TIRF). She was equally emphatic in her answer to the reader’s question, providing statistics to back up her assertion. She mentioned that, while many people don’t consider it a big deal, the numbers suggest otherwise, as some 400 Canadians are killed every year in Canada as a direct result of speeding.


“Going just 10 km/h over the speed limit doubles your chances of getting in a crash, Robertson said. If you’re going 20 km/h over the speed limit, you’re six times more likely to get in a crash than if you’re going the limit.”

Another expert Tchir spoke to, the Vice President of the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals (CARSP) called speeding one of the most dangerous things drivers can do behind the wheel, citing the fact that going even 10 km/h over the speed limit is comparative to driving while impaired.


One of the reasons that speeding is so dangerous is because the faster you are travelling, the longer it takes your vehicle and the more severe a collision will be should you be unable to stop in time to avoid a hazard.


“The faster you’re going, the longer it takes to stop. If you’re driving at 90 km/h, it will take you 83 meters to stop – that’s your reaction time plus your braking distance, Robertson said. But at 130 km/h, you need 150 meters. That’s longer than a football field.”

Of course, speeding has an impact on road users other than those speeding. On a relatively minor level, speeding can cause others to make dangerous maneuvers to get out of your way or avoid coming into your warpath. It can also cause anxiety in other drivers, which can lead to them making mistakes of their own. But on a larger scale, should you be involved in a collision as a result of speeding, there’s a good chance it could involve another road user, one who will have to absorb the increased force of your vehicle travelling at high speeds. Collisions with other vehicles, especially when one or more parties have been speeding, can easily turn deadly, and often do. And if that other road user is a pedestrian or cyclist, they have almost no protection. One of the statistics that Robertson cites is chilling – that only 20% of pedestrians or cyclists survive a collision with a vehicle traveling at 50 km/h.


One of the prompts for the readers question was the belief among many drivers, including her own children, that speeding is not actually that serious, and even that speed limits aren’t realistic. But Tchir and his panel of experts quickly put this idea to bed, calling it a myth that has no basis in reality.


Robertson says many people believe they have to speed if others are speeding, believing that it is actually safer to travel at the same speed as everyone else. But this isn’t true she says. Regardless of how fast others are traveling, speeding is still dangerous, and if you don’t submit to the peer pressure, you’ll be the better for having more time to react and stop than other drivers who are flouting the rules.


Another expert provided compelling and damning evidence regarding the myth that speeding limits are arbitrary:


““People think speed limits are arbitrarily set, but they’re set for a reason by the people who designed the roads,” [said Robert Martin, chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police traffic safety committee]. Martin said he’s heard people say that roads are designed for 140 km/h or higher, but it’s not true. When British Columbia hiked speed limits to 120 km/h on some highways in 2014, the number of fatal crashes doubled.”

So, in answer to one reader’s question, and likely that of many more, speeding is not safe and, despite how many drivers engage it, is decidedly dangerous and often deadly. Case closed.


For more from Tchir’s experts, and for more shocking statistics, check out the original article in the Globe and Mail.