Speeding is a major factor in traffic deaths and injuries. The role of speeding in crashes is described in terms of its effect on the driver, the vehicle, and the road. Excessive speeding reduces the amount of time the driver has to react in a dangerous situation to avoid a crash, increases vehicle stopping distance, and reduces the ability of road safety structures (such as guardrails, impact attenuators, crash cushions, median dividers, and concrete barriers) to protect vehicle occupants in a crash.

Speeding was a factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities in 2018, killing 9,378, or an average of over 25 people per day. The total number of fatal motor-vehicle crashes attributable to speeding was 8,447. A crash is considered speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was indicated as a contributing factor in the crash.

The percent of speeding-related deaths has steadily decreased. In 2010, 32% of traffic fatalities were speeding-related, compared to 26% currently.

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The proportion of speeding-related crashes to all fatal crashes in 2018 decreased as the age of the driver increased. The proportion of female drivers who were speeding is smaller than male drivers across all age groups. Young male drivers in the 15-20 and 21-24-year-old age groups were the most likely to be speeding at the time of fatal crashes. In 2018, at least 29% of male drivers in these age groups involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crashes, compared to 18% of female drivers age 15 to 20 and 14% age 21 to 24.

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Speeding becomes an increasingly important factor for drivers involved in fatal crashes as roadway surface conditions deteriorate. In 2018, speeding was a factor in fatal crashes for:

  • 16% of drivers on dry roads
  • 19% on wet roads
  • 37% on roads with snow or slush
  • 37% on roads with moving or standing water
  • 41% on roads with ice or frost
  • 45% on roads with mud, dirt, or gravel

One of the reasons a driver may be cited by police for speeding is for “driving too fast for conditions.” While driving at the posted speed limit on a dry road may be considered safe, driving at that same speed when the road is wet or covered with snow or ice may be considered unsafe or “too fast for conditions.”

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Speeding and alcohol impairment often coincide; this varies with driver age. While 22% of speeding drivers under age 21 involved in fatal crashes are alcohol impaired (BAC = 0.08+ g/dL), 42% in the 25 to 44 age groups are impaired. The percent of alcohol-impaired drivers falls sharply to 32% among 55- to 64-year-old drivers and continues to decline as the driver age increases.

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Source: National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data.

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