The cost of speed: More crashes, injuries and fatalities

It isn’t difficult to see that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economy. You can see that fewer people are commuting to and from work – and fewer are driving to shop and dine at restaurants – with a glance at the reduced traffic here in Silver Spring and across Maryland and the rest of the nation.

A strange traffic safety phenomenon has surfaced as a result of the pandemic: with fewer vehicles on America’s streets, roads and highways, many of those who are driving, are driving faster. In Washington DC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there was a 22 percent increase in speeds last year in select metro areas compared to speeds in 2019.

The risks of going fast

As regular readers of our blog know, when drivers increase speed, they reduce the effectiveness of their vehicle’s safety equipment and increase their risk of being in a motor vehicle crash that results in severe injuries or death.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Humanetics and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted new crash studies to demonstrate the dangers of excess speed.

The three organizations conducted their crash tests at three different speeds: 40, 50 and 56 mph. The vehicles used in the tests were 2010 Honda CR-V EX crossovers – chosen to represent the average age of typical U.S. vehicles. It should be noted that those particular vehicles earned the IIHS’s top safety rating that year.

Determining damage done

According to a news report, researchers found that in crashes at 40 mph, there was “minimal intrusion into the driver’s space.”

However, at a 50 mph impact speed, there was “noticeable deformation” of the driver-side door opening, as well as to the dashboard and to the foot area.

Upping the speed slightly to 56 mph resulted in a significant compromise to the vehicle’s interior – and worse, to the crash test dummy in the driver’s seat. The dummy’s sensors indicated severe neck injuries and fractures in the lower legs.

Disturbing details

At both 50 mph and 56 mph, the upward movement of the steering wheel “caused the dummy’s head to go through the deployed airbag,” causing the dummy’s “face to smash into the steering wheel.”

According to the researchers, those conditions meant a high risk of severe brain injury and facial fractures.

A AAA spokesperson said, “a speeding driver may arrive at their destination a few minutes faster, but the tradeoff of getting severely injured or even losing one’s life is not worth the risk.”