Speed is commonly cited as dangerous driving behavior, but may not accurately reflect the true landscape of accidents. We are often taught to associate higher speeds with accidents, but the reality is that higher speeds create the potential for more dangerous accidents, but they don’t always increase the risk of having an accident.


According to studies at the state and national level, people who drive far below the average speed of traffic get into more accidents than those traveling at higher speeds. Back in the 1960s, two researchers, Solomon and Cirillo, independently discovered a U-shaped relationship between accidents and speed. Interestingly, the pattern of incidents examined led these researchers to the conclusion that people who travel close to the average speed on a given roadway are far less likely to get into accidents than people who travel at speeds above and below the mean. Furthermore, drivers who traveled at low speeds were more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers traveling at high speeds.


In later studies, the findings of Solomon and Cirillo remained true, but with a caveat. For every deviation of speed above the average speed, they noticed an increase in the likelihood of an accident. As the data suggests, slow drivers are more likely to be and more often are involved in accidents, but when speed exceeds a certain level above the average speed of prevailing traffic, fast drivers get into accidents more.


What This Data Means for You

The posted speed limits are not necessarily designed to slow traffic down. Speed limits are designed to reflect the average speeds at which drivers are comfortable driving, and statistics that claim a certain percentage of speed-related accidents are not necessarily creating an accurate depiction. Other dangerous factors, like texting, often cause accidents labeled “speed related.” Here are some takeaways you can use from this information in daily life:


  • Traveling with prevailing traffic close to the speed limit is the safest “speed zone” for driving – Excessive speeding and driving significantly slower than prevailing traffic are two accident-causing behaviors to avoid.


  • Even though you may perceive a roadway speed limit as unfair, the limit is still the law – Speed limits are designed to keep drivers on the road as safe as possible. Just because you feel more comfortable driving at higher speeds does not make it legal or safer.


  • Other dangerous driving behaviors are equally likely, or more so, to cause an accident – Use common sense when you’re driving. Don’t weave in and out of traffic. Avoid distractions. Don’t engage in multiple dangerous driving activities at once. Go with the flow of traffic.


  • Drive more carefully around slow drivers – As with excessive speeders, slow drivers may present an increased hazard on the roadways. Maintain safe distances around slow drivers and use caution when overtaking and following.


Being involved in an accident at low or high speeds can cause injury. If you are involved in an auto accident at low or fast speeds and you suffer an injury, the auto accident injury lawyers at Erney Law can help you explore your legal options.