Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Does following the speed limit lead to safer driving?

The reason that the police give for enforcing speed limits is, generally speaking, that breaking the law is a safety issue. They pull people over for speeding because the excessive speed means that others on the road around them face unnecessary danger. They're just trying to keep people safe.

Not everyone believes that, though, including some in the police force itself. One officer made headlines for claiming that there was very little correlation between the two.

The claim

The man is a police lieutenant. At meetings, reports claim he often asks those in attendance if they followed the speed limit on the way to the meeting or if they broke it. This is meant to highlight the fact that most people break the speed limit on a fairly consistent basis. Even "safe" drivers do not follow it 100% of the time, and many people avoid speeding tickets simply by getting lucky enough not to see a police officer, rather than by obeying the law.

The officer doesn't ask that question to shame people into driving more slowly, though. He does it to give himself a chance to voice his own thoughts on speeding, saying in an interview with Priceonomics:

"We all speed, yet months and months usually pass between us seeing a crash...Speeding and traffic safety have a small correlation."

In fact, that officer has made it his mission to increase speed limits. He thinks that they're too low and that most people are good enough drivers to go much faster than they're allowed to go. In fact, as he points out, they already do it. They could just do it legally if the laws got changed.

He also thinks the roads would actually be safer if speed limits were higher because there would be less of a speed difference between those breaking the limit and those driving at it. If everyone drove the same speed, he claims that it would increase safety and prevent accidents, even if that speed was faster than it is now.

Your options

Your viewpoints on speed limits aside, the laws still remain on the books. They lead to a lot of tickets which at least one officer thinks are not needed. If you find yourself facing high fines or related charges, make sure you know what options you have.

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Coates & Davenport, P.C.
5206 Markel Road Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23230

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