Speeding is Overlooked Cause of Death on Oklahoma Roads

SERIES: WHY IS OKLA’S TRAFFIC FATALITY RATE SO HIGH? (PART 3)

Speeding is the cause of almost a third of deaths on Oklahoma roads and highways, and the same is true nationwide. Although drunk driving gets much more attention, the statistics show that speeders are just as deadly as drunk drivers, both in Oklahoma and across the U.S.

“The public’s perception of speed and aggressive driving problems are inconsistent at best and apathetic at worst. Few advocates exist for speed reduction; speeding is a behavior that many people engage in routinely.”

That indictment, not only of speeding but of the public’s lackadaisical attitude about speeding, is one of the conclusions of “Speeding and Aggressive Driving,” a 2012 study by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The report found that:

“The proportion of speed-related fatalities that occur on U.S. roadways has remained unchanged over the last quarter century. Almost one-third of all fatalities continue to be speed-related.”

That’s a national statistic, and it correlates exactly with how the numbers stack up here in Oklahoma.

This is the third post in a blog series in which I am exploring Oklahoma’s high traffic fatality rate, which is almost twice as high per person as the national average. In the previous installments of this series, I discussed drunk driving, which is an important factor in Oklahoma traffic fatalities. Of the 700 to 750 traffic deaths in our state each year, about one-third of them, 200 to 250 lives lost, involve a drunk driver who has more alcohol in his/her system than the legal limit.

However, another equally important factor in Oklahoma traffic fatalities is speeding. The following statistics are based on data from “Traffic Safety Facts Oklahoma: 2008-2012,” a report of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Speeding-Related Traffic Fatalities in Oklahoma

Speeding-related traffic fatalities

Pct.: Speeding fatalities / Total traffic fatalities

Total traffic fatalities

Alcohol-impaired fatalities (BAC = .08%+)

Pct.: Speeding fatalities / Total fatalities

2008

221

29%

750

242

32%

2009

234

32%

737

229

31%

2010

189

28%

668

222

33%

2011

213

31%

696

222

32%

2012

218

31%

708

205

29%

As the above numbers reveal, speeding is equally or almost equally as important as drunk driving as a factor in Oklahoma traffic deaths. During the last 5 years, we had slightly more deaths due to speeding than drunk driving in 2 years and slightly less in 3 years. The percentages are within 1 to 3 points of each other in 4 of the 5 years.

“Speed remains the one highway safety area where progress has not been made in almost three decades,” says the Governors Association report.

What more can be done to deter speeding and diminish speeding-related fatalities in Oklahoma? I am not specifically recommending any of the following actions, but here is a list of some of the possibilities that should be considered.

1. Increase law enforcement budgets to beef up enforcement of speeding laws.

According to online journalists Oklahoma Watch, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s 2013 budget is 8% lower than its 2009 budget. That’s going in the wrong direction. The same report said the Oklahoma Highway Patrol did not graduate any new cadets during 2010 and 2011.

2.  Increase fines for speeding.

3.  Automate speed enforcement. There are technologies that can help, such as automated speed enforcement cameras. The Governors Association report said only 14 states use such technologies now.

4. Outlaw radar detectors. In Oklahoma, commercial vehicles are prohibited from using radar detectors, but the devices are legal for the average citizen. If a device were created that made it possible for someone to drive drunk without being detected by law enforcement officers, we would never tolerate the use of such a device. Why do we tolerate a device that makes it easier for people to endanger lives by speeding?

5. Aggressive public awareness. This is one measure I will single out for support: a vigorous public awareness campaign with the goal to change the public perception that speeding is acceptable behavior.

Oklahoma is one of 18 states in the Governors Association’s 2012 survey that responded that we have no state-sponsored public information campaign on speeding. However, in that survey, respondents from all 50 state governments identified “public indifference to speeding” as the biggest obstacle to fighting the problem. The majority of respondents said the public thinks speed enforcement is just a way for the government to make money.

I would say that pretty much captures the popular sentiment about speeding in Oklahoma. We Oklahomans need to understand that speeding endangers people’s lives, and that statistically, driving above the speed limit is no less destructive than drunk driving. Hundreds of Oklahomans lose their lives each year due to speeders.

One Question Remains

The above information makes clear that one way to reduce traffic fatalities in Oklahoma is to reduce speeding. However, these statistics do not answer the question raised at the start of this blog series: Why is the Oklahoma traffic fatality rate almost twice the national average?

As we have seen, although drunk driving and speeding are two huge factors in Oklahoma traffic fatalities, the level at which these offenses occur in Oklahoma correlates almost exactly to the level nationwide. Each of these causes accounts for about one third of traffic fatalities, both in Oklahoma and across the U.S.

That does not explain why Oklahoma has more total traffic fatalities. We will continue to explore that question in the next post in this series.

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Have you or a member of your family experienced personal injury, loss of income or loss of life due to an accident that involved speeding? If so, you need experienced legal representation. Contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook for a free consultation.

For more information, see our webpage: “DUI, drunk driving and speeding accidents.”