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Speed demons
By Peter Reuell / Daily News Staff
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On U.S. highways, speed kills.

Despite a raft of auto safety improvements and an increase in safety belt use over the last decade, speed-related highway deaths have remained nearly constant, a national highway safety group found in a study released yesterday.

The study, conducted by the Washington-based Governors Highway Safety Association, found speed is a factor in nearly one of every three crashes on U.S. roads, and a prime factor in 13,000 deaths annually.

"Speed fatalities have remained pretty level, which is kind of shocking, given how many improvements (have been made) in car safety and seat belt use," association spokesman Jonathan Adkins said yesterday. "In essence, we're giving away our gains in highway safety because of speeding."

The problem, Adkins suggested, may largely be one of education.

Although speeding is largely tolerated by the public, it may not be once the average driver better understands the risks involved, he said.

"We need to educate the public about the role that speed plays. It's dangerous," Adkins said. "It's a serious issue. We need to have a national strategy like we do with drunk driving and other issues, and we don't have one."

"It's huge," Marlborough Police Chief Mark Leonard said of the danger of speeding. "The severity of injuries, and certainly fatalities, increases dramatically with increases in speed.

"People need to understand that speed kills."

Usually, though, speed isn't the only culprit.

As part of the state's "Road Respect" campaign, police are targeting drivers who combine speed with aggressive driving, like weaving in and out of traffic, which often leads to the most serious crashes.

"Trying to launch a large initiative on the issue of speeding might not be as effective as treating speeding as a larger element of aggressive driving," explained Brook Chipman, spokesman for the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau.

"We concur with the overall finding that speed is a top issue. We've always viewed speed, impaired driving and failure to use safety belts as the top three."

And though officials did not dispute the perception of a 10 mph "buffer" for speeders, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police said it is typically the most egregious speeders -- those traveling at up to 25 mph over the limit -- they target most often.

"Our message is reduce your speed," Lt. Sharon Costine said. "And you have to keep an eye out for people that aren't doing a reasonable speed, and the best defense you your seat belt."

While suburban towns like Framingham rely on state police to patrol major highways, they still see the effects of speed on the roads.

"I can certainly say my experience as a police officer for 17 years in most accidents I've responded to (is) speed has been a factor," said Framingham Police spokesman Lt. Vincent Alfano.

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I saw the news story. They sure make life look simple!!

Their message is very simple:
- Speed kills, drive slow and nobody will die! :wink:

Some issues that I have with this "snews" story:
- Numbers of deaths over last 10 years has stayed almost constant in MA (they reported a 5% increase).
- They didn't try to "normalize" the data (statistical analysis). Are there significantly more cars on the road now than 10 years ago? Are there more drivers? Deaths/mile driven is a normalizer that tells a true tale, whereas raw numbers really tell nothing.
- Since "speed kills" they should have presented a special "safe driver" award to the bozo I was behind on the pre-big dig modified Rte. 3 in Boston one day . . . this person came to a complete stop in the left lane of Rte. 3 on a Sunday Morning (no obstructions, no traffic in front of said car). Then this winner proceeded to drive less than 40 mph after that (in the left lane)! Now that is real safe driving . . . at least according to our state officials and the media! :evil:
- In CT they post the highways with MINIMUM and Maximum speed limits! If you can't drive between those limits you are subject to a ticket and do NOT belong on that road. Here in MA we sometimes get behind some old duffer who should have given up his/her license years earlier. But since they know that they can't see and have terrible reaction times, they intentionally drive 25-35 mph in places that are posted 45-55 mph! But they are "safe drivers" . . . they even get a MA discount for being over 65!

BTW: I am all for MSP tagging and bagging those that weave lanes, regardless of speed. But most often traffic on I-495 sails at a steady pace of 75-80 mph, without aggressive driving because the road was truly designed for those kind of speeds. These folks are NOT creating any undue hazard as long as they stay observant, keep with the flow of traffic and not weave in/out of lanes.
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