The Psychology of Speeding

speed demonThis must be speed week as I have heard from two drivers who are having difficulty following the speed limits and one who knew that he was speeding and wanted advice to plan his ticket dispute.  The three situations give some insight into how the pressures of every day driving encourage us to disobey.

Of the two who want to follow the speed limit, one is a commercial driver whose boss is directing him to speed. The other feels that if he doesn't speed in his daily commute he's going to be driven over by others that do.

Here are their stories:

What is the purpose of a speed limit? I am asking because I recently began a new career driving semi truck long haul and I am not sure if speed limits are for safety. I say that because not many people actually do the speed limit and I am getting tired of being in trouble with my boss when I don't speed, for example doing 110 in a 100 zone.

I have many reasons for driving slower then posted speed: A heavy commercial vehicle traveling downgrade, Approaching and passing a temporary hazard, Driving at night, Poor weather conditions, Following an erratic driver or Poor road conditions.

I value my drivers license because it cost me a lot of money to earn.

I would like to have a reasonable response next time my boss gets mad when I am doing 105 in a 110 zone because he does not accept any of the reasons I have given here. I have tried using then as an answer when he wants me to drive faster and I want to drive a little slower.

My goal is to arrive at my destination alive and to drive safely.


I travel through a school zone on Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo each day before 5 p.m. Nobody slows down.

Last week a pickup truck roared by me at about 80 kph in that school zone.

I really want to slow down and obey the law, but even if I'm travelling 45 in a 30 zone, the drivers behind me get all antsy. I'm not suggesting I would get a ticket for driving safely in a school zone, but what if I get ticketed for speeding?

If I obey the zone, I impede traffic, if I go with the flow, I'm speeding. Seems to be a lose-lose situation.

The driver planning his dispute raised many of the points that I used to hear regularly at the roadside: I'm late and I have to pick up my family at the airport. It was down hill. I'm sorry. It's a regular speed trap. I've only received one other ticket in my life. I always follow the rules. I'd pay the ticket if I didn't get the points.

I'll add one of my favourites: I set my cruise control for 10 over because the cops never write tickets for that.

Even our provincial government delivers mixed messages by strengthening the "even if you are doing the speed limit. get out of the left lane" rules.

For our truck driver, the situation that he finds himself in is really bullying in the workplace. WorksafeBC has a resource kit for that and it would be worthwhile for both him and the supervisor to do some reading. Careful documentation of each instance may be required to defend your position if you follow the speed laws and the company fires you because of it.

For our driver in the school zone, you control your speed, not the other driver. Travel through the zone at the appropriate speed and ignore them, unless doing so becomes dangerous. Then you can choose to pull over, stop and let them find someone else to endanger. Take the time to report them to police.

For our ticket disputant, well, good luck. You made the choice to speed and now you've been given the opportunity to pay the price. There's lots of information here on this site to help you decide what to do, just use search. This is the most commonly disputed offence in traffic court and one that is difficult to beat.


Speed Limit

It is very easy to fall into the trap of going the same speed as everyone else on the road no matter how fast. I found a way to avoid this from happening that works, for me.

I ALWAYS use cruise control. I set my cruise control at the speed limit weather I am on the highway or in the city. I don't care if traffic following me doesn't like it, it is my legal responsiblility to follow the driving laws and I do. PERIOD. I will always use the right lane if there is one and I am always very aware of following traffic that will try and pass at very inapropriate times and locations such as double solid lines, school zones and curves. I don't drive for everyone else on the road I drive for myself. I don't personally care if you pass me in these situations, it is not my responsibility to police other drivers, just to be a safe driver myself. As a defensive driver I am also very aware that you can not coach another driver that is in a different vehicle, just let them do what they do.

It is very unfortunate that there are so many drivers that feel they own the road and everyone else is in their way, it is also unfortunate that there are very few drivers that are willing to have an assessment of their driving skills so that they could possibly improve themselves.

As a licenced driving instructor and defensive driving coach, observation while driving is my entertainment. It is not at all uncommon while stopped at a light for me to watch a random driver in my vicinity for eight to 10 seconds and see three or four moving violations. It is also very common to see several following drivers of my target blindly follow through the same violations as they have become the norm for so many drivers that have allowed their default settings to be reset to whatever suits them regardless of what is legal and proper.

I also stop completely at stop signs, but that's a story for another day.

Limit vs Max

It seems these two definitions have fallen to the deep ditches of the aggressive speed mongers.  My pet peeve.  The sense of entitlement is not only out of control, but parents have seriously neglected to teach their children that being second is not for peeking order but for good manners.  Actually, I don't think that courtesy exists but in the small bowels of smaller cities.  There is an abundant of drivers who have taken up that elusive position of "who died and made you the road police?" And suddenly all those rational, considerate, patient, tolerant - LAW ABIDDING drivers have no place on our roads, its for the fast, the furious and the contempt. All the while as they lay down a path of mess and meyhem of close encounters of the road kind, they are little further ahead but at the next light/intersection and they are simply the car in front of you!  I think the best instructions I received at motorcycle training (V-Twin.... thank you) was to adapt to true facts that there are many others out there, on two or four wheels who take some morbid pleasure to either scare you off the road or in some extreme case, cross the centre line and run right at you in the game of chicken. Its true.  Its gut wrenching and its positively a death defying maneauvor to excute through those.  As our instructor made it perfectly clear, a motorcycle will never, never win in a road rage - we must swallow our dignity, our pride and let the bastards go...... just go...... and sigh and roll your eyes that he will not take someone else down the road.  I learnt a whole new level of defencsive driving through Motorcycle training and applying those to my abilities as a cager, has most certainly put the road rages into persepective.

They can go, go, go, - faster, faster, faster.... but even those odds will deminish to their demise, we can only hope no innocents are taken with them.  

For the truck driver.  Good on you.  Stick to your priniples and values and never be bullied by the boss. Carry on till he wants to give you walking papers and I'd bet dollars to donuts, Jimmy Patterson would hire you in a heard beat!  You are proud, you display pride and us 'quiet' majority are standing right beside you.  


Regarding the commercial driver I offer the following rational that may resonate with his boss. Driving the speed limit uses less fuel than driving 10-15 over the limit,

When I was driving long haul from Abbotsford to California I paid for my fuel. I could save, on average, $45-50 per trip by driving the speed limit. Sure I didn’t get as far down the road as other drivers but the money in my pocket was worth it.

Me First!

Simple-it’s a me first society.

A friend and I discussed cyclists today - entitled to take their share of the pavement, often side by side, When youngster's we rode on the gravel, out of the traffic flow.

That’s it, simple - Today we are entitled to do what we want on the road. Drug overdoses are the same thing.

School is out for summer

The concern about the school zone was voiced in a comment several posts ago.
CompetentDrivingBC has astutely pointed out that the limit is 50km/h when the school is closed for the summer break.

A Fundamental Disconnect

You used the word "psychology". It's an important word in this discussion, because the standard engineering methodology for setting speed limits relies on empirical observations of motorist (human) behaviour, and recommends speed limits accordingly. From these speed surveys engineers have in turn developed design speed standards.

The normal design speed for controlled access divided highways in North America is 130 km/h or about 80 mph. The 80 mph limits on Interstate highways in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota represent the implementation of engineering principles over political considerations. (Having driven a good deal in Montana, I have observed that many motorists, and probably the majority, drive at less than the posted limit, making it a true speed limit.)

The root cause of "speeding" in most places is a fundamental disconnect between design speed and posted limits. My assertion is that a speedometer is not a safety device. It is nothing more than a speeding ticket avoidance tool. If a motorist needs to constantly monitor the speedometer or use cruise control to avoid a ticket, the speed limit is, in all likelihood, set too low.

The primary determinant of traffic speed is roadway design. If we connect design speed with desired traffic speed, we will fundamentally change the driving environment. This applies in urban environments as well as open highways. For example, downtown streets can be readily designed to create comfortable shared environments for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists by narrowing driving lanes, adding crosswalks with different pavement textures, landscaping, and other techniques. (Note that I have not included speed bumps. They constitute design failure, and illustrate a sheer lack of creativity. I also dislike the notion of "traffic calming", preferring to discuss the matching of roadway design with a desired outcome.)

If a government believes that a certain absolute speed limit is critical for safety, fine. But proper implementation requires making sure that the speed limit is consistent with roadway design, to avoid making lawbreakers out of motorists who are behaving as reasonable, responsible human beings. To put it another way, motorists should be concerned about driving in a reasonable, controlled, and situationally-aware manner, but their precise speed should be entirely secondary to the task.

Of course, speed enforcement for revenue would be negatively affected, especially in those jurisdictions that permit photo radar. But that's another discussion.

Holding up traffic at driving posted speed limit.

I do try very hard often under duress from the drivers behind me, the speed limit.

Then when I got home.....on Peachland Neighbours Facebook page it was strongly pointed out the "rules of the road and the speed limits"....all well over the posted speeds and I had better shape up. Rather intimidating in this small town also.

That unfortunately is the mentality in this small BC town.

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