Speeding caused the car accident that killed Fast and Furiousstar Paul Walker on November 30, 2013. Apparently, the car in which he was a passenger was traveling at twice the posted 45 miles per hour speed limit. People everywhere were shocked, but given the grim statistics on speeding deaths in the United States, they should not have been.
- 2012 U.S. Census data shows that there were over 33,000 automobile fatalities due to speeding across the United States.
- Even the eternal gridlock of New York City does not prevent speeding from being fatal there, either. The NY Department of Transportation reports that in 2012, “speeding was the leading single factor in traffic deaths, contributing to 81 fatal crashes.”
Unfortunately, many people assume that speeding fatalities only involve high speeds. That’s false. While extreme speed was the cause of Walker’s death, speeding ticket lawyers often have to explain to confused and upset clients that any time they exceed the speed limit, even by 5 miles, they can be ticketed for speeding. For example, if you are traveling only 30 miles an hour, you’re still speeding if the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour.
Why Do We Have Speed Limits?
While some groups fight against the institution of speed limits, such as the National Motorists Association, speed limits are valuable for a few important reasons. The most important, as one study explains, “The scientific fact that kinetic energy increases twice as fast asspeed cannot be denied. When motorists double their speed, they have four times as much energy to deal with, and crashes are four times more severe.”
This means that speed limits can help insure that drivers do not take on more than they can handle, and in doing so cause harm to themselves and others. Or, as the Iowa State University Institute for Transportation explains, “Speed restrictions should advise drivers of limits within which a vehicle can be operated safely under normal conditions and allow sufficient time to react to unexpected conditions.”
Also, some roads may be subject to road conditions with which some drivers are unfamiliar, such as ice, falling rocks, sharp curves, or extremely heavy and unpredictable traffic. Speed limits help all drivers maintain speeds that are safer in certain conditions.
What Can Happen if You Speed?
The newspapers are full of sad stories about accidents that take the lives of innocent people every day due to speeding. High profile celebrities like Paul Walker get most of the press, but imagine the pain and sorrow of the family of 32-year-old Eugene Ratliff, an aspiring artist working two jobs to support his daughter. Ratliff was hit and killed by a speeding car while walking to his own birthday celebration in Chicago.
The 17-year-old driver was found hiding in bushes after the accident; he is being held on $500,000 bail and faces severe criminal charges that may include second-degree murder or manslaughter. That’s a very high price to pay for speeding, but it was the driver’s innocent victim who paid the ultimate penalty.
In addition to severe charges related to speeding incidents that cause injury or death, speeding ticket fines average $150.00 each and can also include court costs and attorney fees. A driver found guilty of speeding can also lose his or her license, resulting in transportation costs to take taxis or hire drivers in order to meet professional and personal obligations.
Drivers need to ask themselves: is speeding worth the harm they can do to themselves or others? Don’t wait for an answer until it’s too late.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.
Image Attribution of Paul Walker
Andre Luis [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons