Public 'impatient' with slow drivers, somehow OK with speed limiters

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 12/12/2013

A federal survey of public attitudes and behaviors about speeding shows that people have trouble making up their minds, especially about trucks. For example, 60 percent of respondents said they were impatient with slow-moving vehicles, yet the same percentage said they would support mandatory speed limiters on trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the results this month based on a survey conducted in 2011. Survey takers were from general public and it is not clear how many, if any, were professional truck drivers.

Under a heading about personal attitudes, drivers spelled out their own habits as well as their thoughts about speeding.

“Three in five (60 percent) drivers agreed that they often get impatient with slower drivers,” according to the findings.

In the same section, the drivers the identified as those who admitted to frequent speeding were three times as likely as sometime speeders to strongly agree with statements such as “I often get impatient with slower drivers,” “I enjoy the feeling of driving fast,” and “I try to get where I am going as fast as I can.”

Eighty-two percent of survey takers said they agreed with statements that driving at or close to the speed limit reduced chances of accidents and used less fuel, while two out of every five respondents said driving the speed limit made it difficult to keep up with traffic.

Nearly half of the respondents said “something should be done” about speeding, but opinions varied about what that something should be.

A contradiction emerges when the topic turns to speed limiters.

“Respondents were asked whether they thought the use of speed governors was a good or bad idea. The responses varied based on the type of driver that would be required to use this type of device … (Three out of five) drivers (60 percent) think that mandating use of speed governors by truck drivers is a good idea,” the survey indicated.

“An even higher proportion of drivers supports mandatory use of speed governors for drivers under 18 (77 percent) and drivers with multiple speeding tickets (82 percent). However, less than a quarter (24 percent) of drivers think that mandatory speed governors for all drivers is a good idea.”

One-third of respondents said posted speed limits should be enforced all the time, while just one in seven drivers said they saw vehicles pulled over by law enforcement all the time.

“Interestingly, 16 percent said they see vehicles pulled over rarely, which is higher than those who said they see vehicles pulled over all the time,” the survey showed.

OOIDA says the study shows that federal agencies like NHTSA, which also publishes annual crash data and vehicle-related fatalities, often take the wrong approach when they specifically target trucks and not passenger vehicles.

“Speeding passenger cars represent a significant threat to the safety of truckers and other motorists on the highway, yet NHTSA’s only response seems to be to speed limit truckers – a move that will increase the very accidents they state they have a goal of reducing,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

The Association points to NHTSA’s own stats to highlight the imbalance.

“The 2011 data shows that 20.4 percent of passenger car fatal crashes saw the driver cited for speeding,” OOIDA points out. “Fewer than 8 percent of truck drivers were cited in truck-involved fatal crashes.”

OOIDA analysis of NHTSA crash and fatality data shows that factors such as having a radar detector in a vehicle – whether or not it was even used – automatically placed a crash in a category of being “speed-related.”

NHTSA says it possesses no data that would show whether large trucks involved in crashes had speed limiters or did not have speed limiters.

The NHTSA speed survey delves into speed cameras, collision warning and other on-board safety systems, cellphone behavior, alcohol use and other criteria the agency considers for its data collection and recommendations for rules and enforcement.

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