Slow down, you're on vacation

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Summertime for many people means embarking on a vacation, which they have saved and planned for all year long.

We will use this week's editorial space to relay some of this information on the relationship between speed and traffic collisions in the hopes that it might make our readers drive more safely as they hit the highways this summer. Here are some of the facts relating to increased speed limits.

• The higher the speed, the less time a driver has to react in an emergency. If a car stops 100 yards ahead of you, you will reach the car in 3.4 seconds if you're traveling 60 miles per hour; at 70 miles per hour, it will take you 2.9 seconds to reach the other vehicle; and at 80 miles per our your response time decreased to just 2.5 seconds. Just think what might happen if you were fiddling with the radio or talking on the cell phone when an emergency occurs? Your response time has now dwindled to nothing.

• According to the American Automobile Association, braking distances and collision forces are proportional to the square of the speed. If you increase your speed from 60 to 70 miles per hour, you're moving about 17 percent faster. But, you will need 36 percent more distance to stop, and if you hit another car without braking, the collision will be 36 percent more powerful.

• At night, response time is shortened because drivers can see only as far as their headlights. Typically, headlights enable a driver to see about 160 feet ahead. This gives most drivers 1.5 seconds to react. At speeds above 70 miles per hour, a collision would be unavoidable.

• A typical midsize car needs the following distances to come to a stop on dry pavement: 60 m.p.h., 140 feet; 65 m.p.h., 164 feet; 70 m.p.h., 475 feet; 75 m.p.h., 545 feet; and 80 m.p.h., 618 feet.

• According to statistics, there were nearly 10,000 fewer highway fatalities in 1974, the year following the enactment of the 55 mile per hour speed limit.

• When the federal government allowed states to raise the speed limit to 65 on rural interstates in 1987, the 38 states that did so saw fatalities jump up 21 percent. Those states that kept the speed limit at 55 did not see any change in highway fatalities.

• On the practical side, increased speed limits and the subsequent rise in crash severity could mean insurance costs would increase because of higher medical payments and increased property damage.

We urge all our readers to buckle up and drive safely no matter what the speed limit. And by the way, happy vacation and Happy Fourth of July!