By Samuel Akinfe
Several crashes on our roads are majorly attributed to speeding; even when this cannot be substantiated. We conclude so quickly, this approach has not helped in the overall assessment of how we conduct a traffic crash investigation. There are many factors that influence a driver’s attitude to speed; the thrill, ego, less than adequate journey planning, driving under influence and age.
Vehicle collision happens when there is poor situation awareness, faulty judgement, skill deficiency, unsafe behaviour and overconfidence. For a wholistic approach to the menace of speeding, I would prefer to discuss it as “improper speed”.
I often ask this question; are posted speed limit a ‘safe’ limit or a ‘legal’ limit? An appropriate response to this probing question would show why motorist driving within posted limit yet can still pose a major risk to other road users.
Improper speed would mean driving in a manner (either too slow or excessively fast) that is not suitable for the condition of the road or/and other dynamic elements within the driving space.
It is a fact, moving too fast leaves a lot to chances; there is a high chance not to notice condition and situation that pose threat and danger, ability to quickly stop the vehicle is increased, crash avoidance is less, preventable crashes become very rampant with high consequences.
The Federal Highway Code stipulates different speed limit to different vehicles on different classes of the road under a normal condition – this condition is not limited to the weather situation, visibility, state of the vehicle, nature of traffic in that corridor among others.
Private road, 2-lane highways, Dual carriageways, and Expressway all have their characteristic features and rules of usage applicable to them. However, over time, due to growth and development and human activities, some of the road types have metamorphosized and are deemed for re-classification.
The road is not a race track; our choice of speed should be appropriate to our environment and the prevailing circumstances, so we are abreast of any danger and respond to avoid them in time.
Time is of the essence of avoiding a collision; first is the time it takes to spot the danger, time it takes to react – making judgement and braking time. These factors differ with the individual, their make-up per time, state of their vehicle and environment.
A lot is at stake when we engage in speed not appropriate for the environment we find ourselves. It is not sufficient alone to drive at a posted speed where applicable or prescribed, it is also very important to note that driving the speed limit does not mean we are not dangerous. World Health Organisation (WHO) says a pedestrian likelihood to survive a crash reduces with speed above 30km/hr. You can be legally within the speed limit and still kill a vulnerable road user.
Let us consider approaching a T-junction, a designated U-turn, an intersection, school, market, religious or political event, traffic signal, a roundabout, and the list goes on. If the attitude to each of the traffic condition is not different, it means we are living by chances. We can do well by applying ourselves to an appropriate speed to routes we find ourselves, it could mean driving below-posted speed limit.
Ability to stop a vehicle before colliding with an object, a pedestrian or other vehicle is very crucial, and a crash will be avoided. The effort to avoid such is to come to rest before the impact. Stopping distance is made of three components; perception distance, reaction distance, and braking distance.
Perception distance is the distance covered when a motorist recognizes a situation/object on/around the path of travel that as a potential to cause an incident. It could be a pothole, a vehicle approaching in your lane, a falling tree, animal crossing, a pedestrian. It is also referred to as recognition distance.
Reaction distance, this is the distance covered from the moment of recognition of the situation with the potential to cause harm and knowing what to do to avoid it. This distance adds up to determine the outcome of a collision and would differ with driving experience. A young driver may freeze-up, not knowing what to do or act incorrectly for the situation. Also, someone under the influence of a drug or prescribed meditation may react inappropriately.
Braking distance; to ultimately avoid a collision, vehicle must come to rest just in time. Hence, distance to come to rest after applying the brake is the braking distance. Technology is playing a great role to enable quick recognition/ detection, aid driver’s reaction and improve braking.
It is instructive to note that all the three play out in seconds and cumulate to the possibility of a crash occurring and its outcome.
Be careful when you’re driving and everything around you move so fast that you cannot notice, you’re stretching your perception, shrinking your reaction distance and your braking distance might not save the situation. It happens so fast but it is preventable and the crash avoidable.
It is important for us to appreciate that element of stopping distance; perception, reaction, and braking distance, depend on other factors within and outside our control: alertness, vehicle condition, type of vehicle, type and condition of road surface, speed thrill, impression management, distraction, poor visibility, aggression among others are contributing risk factors.
Battling this menace requires total focus; education and enforcement. Enforcement is yielding result in other climes and changing driver’s behaviour. Often time, when a crash occurs, the motorist whose action triggers the menace may not be involved in the incident.
It is important for relevant agencies of Government to ensure speed limit signs are posted on our roads as a precondition to speed regulation, the re-classify road where dynamics of traffic and community activities has changed tremendously, investigate situational risk factors contributing to speed-related collision and deploy suitable intervention.
It is our responsibility to drive courteously and cautiously by engaging the appropriate speed for the environment we find ourselves. Improper speed is not just about going too fast, going too slow for traffic is dangerous, especially when motorist choice of the lane is wrong. It is important to note we have signs regulating both minimum and maximum speed.
Avoid follow too closely, make sure your speed allows you to get the big picture within your driving space, don’t race through traffic lights, watch for merging lanes, get into the correct lane well in advance if you want to exit a highway – sudden lane change is dangerous, avoid distraction and watch out for vehicles that could be in your blind spot.
…do not speed like a lightning, so you do not crash like a thunder!
*Samuel Akinfe is an FRSC Special MArshal and CEO of Steerite Driving School