Speeding 9/13/22

Calculations with Richard Bleil

The other day, a line of cars all sped past me on a two-lane highway on my way to work.  I was doing the speed limit (actually had set my cruise control), but with my hybrid, I was trying to save power in the hopes that it wouldn’t kick over to my gas engine.  As such, I was doing exactly the speed limit.  This is annoying to many drivers, but with the price of gas, I was determined to try to make it to and from work on electric only.  And because this highway was two lanes, that means they had to wait for the sections where passing was legal, and had to cross over into the lane with oncoming traffic to do so.  Yes, they would wait until it was safe, but it’s still a hazard.

Have you ever really thought about the benefits of speeding?  We all know the risks.  Increased chances of being pulled over, tickets (sometimes from hidden radars that are mailed to your house), increased risk of accidents (yes, even with the best drivers) and increased risk of injuries in the accident because of the higher speed.  Fine, when somebody decides to speed, they accept all of that, and that’s their choice.  But what are the benefits?  I mean, you get there faster, right?

Or do you?  Let’s do a quick calculation.  The trip for me was fifty miles, and let’s say that on average I was driving sixty miles per hour.  Round trip, that means that it will take fifty minutes to and from work.  One way, that means it’s a twenty-five-minute trip (exactly as predicted by my navigational software.  Now, if I’m running late, I might choose to drive ten miles per hour over the speed limit, or seventy miles per hour rather than sixty.  To drive the same distance, at seventy, the trip will take about twenty-one and a half minutes.

The difference?  Three and a half minutes saved.  Risking tickets, crashes, injury and all for less than four minutes.  That’s about the length of one superb classic rock song.  If I was running five minutes late, I still wouldn’t make it on time, and I’d miss out on that superb song.  Not to mention the cost of the extra gas it takes since I couldn’t possibly make it round trip without the gas engine kicking on.

The first time I did a calculation of this type, I did it in my head while driving somewhere, and over the speed limit.  I realized, at that time, just how much faster I would arrive, and realized it was negligible.  And engines, let’s be honest about this, are less efficient as we go faster.  That means our fuel efficiency drops, and we’ll spend even more gas on the trip.  For four minutes.  At longer distances, say ten times longer (two-hundred and fifty miles), the trip will take (at sixty) over four hours.  At seventy, you’ll save about half an hour.  It will still be the lion’s share of a four-hour trip, but hey, you’ll save half an hour.

Yes, there are other benefits.  I’ve written of my first crash where I was rear-ended and frankly should have died.  Even today, nearly forty years later, the experience still has me in fear of rear-end collisions (a form, no doubt, of PTSD but relatively mild), so if I’m in a lot of traffic where people are going different speeds making it difficult or impossible to equilibrate with the traffic around me, I’ll tend towards going faster.  I trust my own driving skills to keep out of a crash more than I trust those of the drivers behind me.  But this is a fear based (I admit it) decision, not one of saving time.  And on a simple two-lane highway, such as the one that I was on, yes, I’ll pass if the driver ahead of me is going slower than the speed limit, even by a relatively small amount.  I’d rather pass than risk somebody driving up too fast and not seeing me.

So, what is the point of this post?  I have no idea.  I’m not trying to convince people to slow down (or speed up) even if I could.  You do you.  But I also enjoy exposing the truth.  When people drive recklessly through neighborhoods or on the road, putting lives in danger, I often wonder why.  I just think people should know the truth, and perhaps, just perhaps, stop kidding themselves or trying to deceive others with false excuses.