I have been thinking about this for quite some time. I think about this every time I hit the freeway and involuntarily increase my speed up to 5 ~ 10 miles per hour above the legal limit. I thought really hard about this when I got my last speeding ticket about 3.5 years ago for driving 19 mph above the limit. Finally, I have made up mind to write about it….just needed to flush those numbers out of my system. I will probably qualify for the smart-ass of the year award for this post. Whatever.
Speeding to save time?
Let’s look at some typical scenarios and see how much time we save by speeding to our destination. I have considered three cases that most of us would usually come across:
- Case 1: short distance, low speed limit - This applies for most in-town driving. Clearly, speeding in this case makes no sense at all. In the chart below, look at the time saved by going 20 mph above the limit…just 5 minutes ! Doesn’t seem like it’s worth it, does it? Plus, if you drive at 60 mph in a 40 mph zone, you will be noticed (by cops perhaps). Also, in some areas/cities, the traffic lights are synchronized in such way that, if you drive 10 mph over the limit, you will keep hitting red lights often.
- Case 2: medium distance, high speed limit - This applies more to situations when you are driving to a nearby town/city. Most of us will generally prefer the freeway for such distances and hence the 70 mph speed limit. If you are like me, you would probably start cruising at 5~10 mph over the speed limit. But look at the graph below. Going 10 mph above the speed limit is saving you just a little more than 5 minutes. You could potentially take less time by speeding more, but you need to look at the risk analysis (scroll down for that) before you do that.
- Case 3: long distance, high speed limit - This is about driving to a far away town/city. Alright ! so this time you can save 19.29 minutes by driving at 80 mph instead of 70 mph. This one sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, if you look at it with only a slightly practical point of view, this doesn’t sound very promising either. You will save 19.29 minutes if you drive constantly at 80 mph for the full 180 miles. In all probability, over longer distances, your average driving speed may be well below 80 mph, considering general traffic, road conditions, traffic lights, etc. You may occasionally pump it to 80 mph, but then that’s not going to save you the full 19.29 minutes.
Speeding vs. risk, a trade-off
Risk is a inseparable part of the speeding package. To really make sense of whether speeding is worth the time saved, we should look at the risks involved. First, let’s look at the risk of getting a speeding ticket in the event that you have a speed measuring laser pointed at your vehicle. The graph shown below is just to give you a feel of how the risk changes with speeding. Note that, there are different laws in different states and this may not be specifically apply to you. More details about state-specific laws can be found here.
Btw, if you are mathematically inclined, I have used a sigmoid function to draw this graph and assumed that the chance of getting a ticket, when driving 10 mph above limit, is 50%. This particular graph is for a 70 mph speed limit, but you can apply it to any speed limit. OK, all this is a bit geeky, but stay with me here. The point is to show that about 5~6 mph above the speed limit you probably won’t get pulled over for speeding (some states even have official tolerances in this zone). However, beyond this, your luck will start vanishing very rapidly. If you desperately want to speed, your best chances of not getting caught are in Zone 1 and Zone 2 (when you are not going more than 10 mph above the speed limit).
Now, go back to the charts that showed the time gain and look up the time gained by driving just 10 mph above the limit in all of them. Do you still find it worth?
More risks and costs
If you are still not convinced, let me throw some hackneyed reasons at you. May be, against the above background, these things will make a greater effect here.
- Accidents: risk to life - You must have heard this a zillion times. Speeding is just not safe. Speed limits are put up for a reason…they are not just there to frustrate the hell out of you. Some people probably must have spent their lives trying to determine the optimal speed limits for certain roads. Show them some respect.
- Fuel: cost of increased consumption - Speeding costs money. Here is a some sort of a quantification by the government (here is the source):
As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.
- Tickets: cost of fines - Most fines hover in the range of $70 to $150 when you are speeding between 0-20 mph over the limit. Plus, there are court fees and other associated costs (like a driving safety course fee) involved when you get a ticket.
- More monetary loss: cost of insurance - You won’t be very happy with your insurance premiums if you have a couple of tickets sticking in your driving record. Of course, all tickets don’t lead to this, but you should keep this in mind.
- The cost of lost peace of mind: There are other intangible costs that go beyond monetary values, like stress while driving, stress after getting a speeding ticket, overall loss of time if you are required to go to court and stuff, etc.
You could reduce some/all speeding ticket associated risks by using radar detectors and such, but those things won’t warn you of an impending accident risk on account of your speeding.
Or you could just relax, drive within speed limits, and enjoy your driving. I think I am going to try doing just that.
Infinite speed limit image source: www.continuum2.com