Transportation

Texas Researchers Investigate Who Speeds (Young Dudes), Why (To Get There Faster) and What Can Be Done About It (Nothing)

Several months ago, researchers gathered 164 volunteers in College Station, Texas and Seattle, outfitted their cars with GPS devices, and had them fill out questionnaires detailing how they drive (i.e. if they speed up for yellow lights, drive drunk, miss road signs, and any number of other factors). Then they set the people loose for a month to go about their daily lives.

The idea was to figure out why people speed and, by doing so, suggest countermeasures to help combat speeding.

The decision to speed depends largely on the situation, the researchers, from Texas A&M and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found. Some people may speed trying to get to work on time. Others may push the pedal down a little farther on the open highway. According to the research, it would be a vast oversimplification to say that a certain demographic group or personality type speeds more than others.

But we're not bound by the niceties of academia. Looking at the research, young people appear have a slightly greater tendency to speed that do old people, and men are more likely to than women. Predictably, drivers who self-reported aggressive driving and road rage drove faster than those who didn't. So did those who drove trucks or sports cars. And in a final, somewhat counterintuitive twist, higher incomes and education levels correlate with speeding.

So basically, you're prototypical speed demon is Doogie Houser.

The trickier part of the research is finding a way to combat speeding. The presence of police officers and those digital roadside speed signs are effective, but those are scarce and can't be everywhere.

Devices that limit an engine's speed are effective, but people don't like them, and they'll never be used on a large scale. That leaves in-car fuel efficiency displays, which show declining gas mileage as speed increases. Because reckless teenagers who pay no heed to their own safety or the safety of others are of course very concerned about fuel efficiency.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson