Sunday, January 6, 2013

Speeding and Crashing

The concept of speed is one most people view as a function of time, or perhaps people think of time as a function of speed. This is, of course, to a degree accurate, but not nearly as much as people feel it is. People have an emotional attachment to the process of hurry. In their minds, if they make enough frenetic effort, then that makes up for anything else that might enter into the equation.

As The Slowest Driver on Earth I am privy to information that most people do not understand. I can leave my house and arrive at work, twenty-six miles away, in thirty-six minutes. This seems to be snail’s pace territory because as I arrived at work I have averaged only forty-three miles an hour which is twelve miles an hour under the speed limit between my house and Quitman, and twenty-two miles an hour slower than the speed limit on US 84 which holds the longest nonstop distance that I have to travel and that being twelve miles.

The thing here is there are thirteen traffic lights between work and my driveway and thankfully only two of these are left turns. If I hit just half of them and they run on thirty second cycle on average that means of the thirty-six minutes I spend on the road, nearly ten percent of that time will be spent waiting for a light to turn green.

Worse yet for those who hurry, there are only two sections of road that might be traveled safely at speed, and those two roads consist of about nineteen miles of no traffic lights and open road. If someone traveled that nineteen miles at sixty-five miles an hour while I poked along at fifty-five, they would arrive save less than three minutes of time, or roughly a little less than the traffic lights are going to cost them anyway over the whole trip.
The difference between driving fifty-five or sixty-five won’t make as big a difference as traffic lights will on my trip to work.

Speed is not a function of miles per hour but rather a function of how the flow of traffic affects a traveler.

I challenge anyone to plot a course on a trip that involves at least one third of that trip through traffic lighted areas and show me how there is a significant amount of time saved by speeding.

But here is what you will get.

The difference between fuel consumption at sixty-five miles an hour over that of traveling fifty-five is about twenty percent. At sixty miles an hour, the wind resistance against that of the velocity of a moving vehicle begins to climb at a disproportional rate which means more and more fuel is used to gain less and less speed.

Force equal mass times acceleration. That means if a drive is in a vehicle that weighs a ton and hits something while traveling at ten miles an hour the force will be 20,000 foot pounds of force. For each ten miles an hour faster to speed you add that much force to impact yet you consume more fuel and save very little time.

I made a very deliberate transition from someone who speeds around all the time to a much slower driver over a decade ago. Partly this was due to fuel costs but mostly I had timed my weekly travels and discovered to make up any time at all I had to travel at speeds that would terrify anyone who could use simple physics equations.

Last Wednesday someone in a hurry pulled out in front of me and I rammed their car with my truck. In an area where the speed limit is forty-five I was going no faster than thirty. After a couple of hours in the hospital I walked away from the accident with a sore back and a totaled truck but I am still alive.

There isn’t much hope that this will change the way most people drive, but I would challenge everyone here to do the math. Drive as you always have for a month but keep a record of time spent on the road and gas consumed. Then drop your speed down and record the results. You might be very surprised.

We American tend to view things we do in cars and trucks as insulated actions and lives that have no impact on the outside world, but I can tell you it takes less than a second for this illusion to be dispelled. In less than a second you can be maimed, killed, maim or kill someone else, and one that event begins and ends your personal control over your world is gone.

It’s not worth it.  Slow down.

Take Care,


  1. You are right, of course. And I am guilty.

    I'm glad your okay, Mike.

    1. I am too. That's the only thing that really matters to me in all of this.

  2. My late husband was a law enforcement officer. He had to stop speeders and nearly always they said one of two things: "I'm almost late for work..."

    "I have an appointment and I'm late."

    His standard, and correct reply, was: "If you leave earlier, you'd be on time. Here's your warning and/or ticket."

    There just seems to be a disconnect between leaving early to get some place on time. And in the process, they forget they might kill themselves or someone else by speeding. Don't even get me started on texting while driving!

    Glad you are okay, but I know from the two wrecks I had (not my fault) that driving may seem a bit different now. After my second wreck, I felt like I was on a carnival ride every time I got behind the wheel. For a while there, I wanted to walk instead of drive!

    1. I made myself drive in Tallahassee a few hours after the wreck just to get back into saddle again.

      Not much fun, I tell you, but it did help me get over it.

  3. I have been driving slowly for a few years, mostly because I drive a 31 year old RV everywhere! now I have a year off from driving on medical grounds so I am reduced to 8mph on a disability scooter, man, the world looks different when you go at 8mph. :-D

    1. If I get into another one in the next year or so I might join you, Mick!

  4. 65? Who in hell drives 65… besides left lane bandits.
    Your fuel savings is highly variable, depending on the vehicle’s aerodynamics and gearing for the engine’s torque curve, so 20% might be valid for your truck.
    But you know if you’d been driving faster you’d have been passed the point where that car you hit pulled out.

    1. Or slower and he would had been gone already

  5. That little video you have posted at the top made me sick...that pedestrian must have been killed, I can't even see him after the crash.
    The disconnect people have between how they drive and the reality of how easily they can be killed (or kill someone else) never fails to amaze me. And when it rains, it's as if those slick wet roads make no difference at all. I absolutely HATE to be on the roads after a rain.
    I cringe and am on pins and needles every time Sara makes the trip to or from Oxford to Gainesville. I think she drives too fast, even if she is basically careful, but it's that other driver that scares the Hell out of me.
    Micah's accident was absolutely brought home just how quickly a life can be ended by a careless action. He, as the passenger, had no control over what happened that day...and he died as a result. I can only hope that for all his classmates, who were all 14 at the time of the crash, that it struck home with them and will make them careful drivers.
    I'm very glad you are okay Mike...

    1. There is no way I can express how truly lucky I feel to have suffered so little in a wreck.

      And it did scare the hell out of me.