Whether driving on Central Avenue through downtown Albany or commuting from nearby Delmar or Westmere, you encounter speeding drivers every day. Unfortunately, speeding occurs so regularly that we often do not think about the dangers that come with it. However, speeding is so dangerous that it contributes to tens of thousands of accidents across the nation each year, some of which result in death.
According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), more than 25 percent of fatal accidents across New York involve speeding. In some recent years, the percentage has risen to almost 30 percent. These startling numbers reveal speeding as one of the leading causes of crash-related fatalities.
Below we discuss the specific definition of speeding, the dangers of speeding, why people speed, and what you can do if you suffer injuries or lose a loved one in a speeding-related accident in Albany.
Speeding Is More Than Going Over the Posted Limit
Everyone knows that speeding refers to going faster than the posted speed limit. However, the broader definition of speeding also encompasses driving too fast for conditions, which is not always driving over the speed limit.
Road, weather, and traffic conditions can contribute to a scenario where excess speed can be dangerous and lead to a dangerous traffic accident.
Examples of conditions that require drivers to slow down, sometimes lower than the posted speed limit, include:
- Poorly maintained roads with potholes, sinkholes, and other hazards
- Presence of trash, debris, fallen trees, or other hazards on a road
- Intersections and railroad crossings
- Hills, sharp curves, and blind curves
- Snowy or icy roads
- Wet roads, especially with standing water
- Presence of pedestrians, cyclists, animals, etc.
- Heavy traffic
- Heavy rain, fog, smog
- Sun glare
- Snowstorms and ice storms
Speed Limits in Albany
State and city laws govern the speed limits in Albany and throughout New York. Drivers must comply with a 30-mile per hour speed limit within Albany’s city limits, except on South Pearl Street, where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Other roads, unless marked otherwise, have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Exceptions include some highways and areas of nearby interstates that have a posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour.
These speed limits are absolute limits that mean a driver should not exceed them. If any of the conditions above exist and a driver does not slow to “reasonable or prudent” speed, they face a traffic citation from law enforcement.
Police sometimes target those who appear to be going too fast for conditions. Yet, these types of citations usually occur when the driver causes an accident. Penalties are separate from any financial liability for damages. Drivers face fines and receive points against their New York drivers’ licenses.
Why Is Speeding so Dangerous?
Speeding is among the most dangerous habits or behaviors that drivers engage in while operating a motor vehicle. Yet, drivers speed all the time. If you have suffered injuries in a speeding-related traffic accident in Albany, you have first-hand knowledge of the dangers of speeding. They include:
Decreased Reaction Time
Safely operating a motor vehicle means that drivers need to process all information that they see and hear when they are behind the wheel. They must take in the information, process it, and react appropriately.
Drivers who speed, whether going over the posted limit or traveling too fast for conditions, reduce their time to react to other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, hazards, and traffic control devices. For example, a driver might see a child or cyclist dart out in the street; however, their reaction might be too late to avoid a collision if they are speeding.
Increased Stopping Distance
At 40 miles per hour, the average passenger vehicle needs about 120 feet to stop. This includes 40 feet to process the action and 80 feet to stop once a driver applies the breaks. As speed increases, so does total stopping distance.
For example, at 60 miles per hour, the average vehicle takes 240 feet to stop. The weight of a vehicle also impacts braking distance. A semi-truck takes about 175 feet to stop when traveling at 40 miles per hour. If a driver is speeding and needs to apply brakes to slow down or stop suddenly, they are less likely to avoid an accident.
More Severe Injuries
Speed is one of the main components of what makes up the force of impact during a crash. If you think back to early physics lessons in high school, you know that Force = Mass times Acceleration. As acceleration (speed) increases, the force of impact also increases. The weight of a vehicle also impacts force, making heavy trucks that speed the most dangerous of all.
The greater the force of impact during a traffic accident, the more severe injuries those involved suffer. Similarly, increased speed also leads to a higher chance of fatalities.
Reduced Effectiveness of Safety Devices
Auto manufacturers design safety devices in vehicles to protect drivers and occupants by ensuring devices work the best at the legal speed limit and even a little over speed limits. Traveling at 65 to 70 miles per hour reduces the effectiveness of safety devices such as seatbelts and airbags.
In some cases, safety devices can cause injuries when drivers who speed excessively get into a crash. Federal laws make safety devices mandatory in vehicles, and every state has a seatbelt law. Those who speed not only put others at risk for accident and injury, but they risk their own lives when their seatbelts and/or airbags do not protect them as they should.
Drivers Have Various Motivations for Speeding
One of the easiest ways to stay safe on the road is to drive the speed limit and slow down when conditions require less speed. Yet, speeding-related accidents happen daily in the Albany area and throughout New York. Although many are familiar with the dangers of speeding, they still choose to drive too fast. Some common motivations and reasons that people have for speeding include:
The most common reason for drivers to speed is that they are in a hurry to get to their destination, often because they are running late. Some are habitually late, but most have busy lives that keep them going from obligation to obligation.
Running late for school, work, a doctor’s appointment, or a business meeting are a few situations that lead to drivers going faster than they should. Even though drivers know they are breaking the law and potentially putting themselves and others in danger, they choose to speed to avoid the personal, social, or professional consequences that come with arriving late.
Among all fatal and injury crashes in New York that involve speeding, more than 30 percent of drivers fall between 21 and 29. This age group has the largest group of speeders by more than 10 percent.
Young drivers speed for different reasons, making it difficult to pin down why speeding is so prevalent during this age. Inexperience might play a part in why drivers in their 20s speed, as well as immaturity for some. It’s also possible that speeding occurs because younger drivers are risk-averse; they do not fully understand the risks that come with speeding.
It’s possible that some speeders in Albany are new to the area or visiting from another location in New York or throughout the country. Drivers who don’t know an area often focus on directions, landmarks, and locations.
Being distracted by trying to find their way around, they are not paying attention to the speed limit. This distraction can be especially dangerous when hills or sharp turns are present. Speeding is typically not intentional in these scenarios but is more often associated with inattentive driving.
Some drivers are habitual speeders, whether they are running late or not. Some researchers argue that the culture of the United States teaches people to speed. The idea is that people do everything as fast as they can, including driving a vehicle. Some speed because they can, especially when in traffic.
If every vehicle is traveling 10 or 15 miles over the speed limit, drivers feel like they are not hurting anything by speeding. Others find that speed limits in certain areas are random and do not make sense. In any case, some drivers will always travel over the posted speed limit each time they get behind the wheel, potentially causing serious or fatal car accidents.
Consuming alcohol impairs not only a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely but also impacts judgment. The more alcohol someone consumes, the worse choices they make outside and inside a vehicle.
This often means ignoring traffic devices or playing “beat the yellow” light and cutting off others with erratic turns and lane changes. However, speeding is one of the most common dangerous driving behaviors of drunk drivers. Among speeding-related crashes in New York, approximately 15 percent of crashes involve alcohol during any given year.
Disregard for the Law and/or Safety of Others
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) characterizes speeding as a type of aggressive driving. According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving is rare, and some drivers never drive aggressively.
However, a small portion of the driving population has frequent episodes of aggressive or reckless driving or always drives aggressively. Sometimes episodes are a response to a particular situation. Other times, drivers have no regard for the law, and they do not care about the safety of themselves or others, so they speed excessively.
What to Do After Suffering Loss from a Speeding-Related Accident in Albany
As discussed above, speeding can lead to dangerous and sometimes fatal accidents. Severe injuries are costly, and victims must cope with emotional stress and financial difficulties in addition to their physical pain.
In fatal accidents, family members face massive trauma and grief from the sudden loss of a loved one. The loss can also lead to economic hardship for some families.
Regardless of the exact situation, when someone suffers injuries or death due to another driver’s speeding, New York law permits victims and surviving family members to take legal action to recover damages related to the accident, injuries, and associated losses.
Insurance companies are notorious for the tricky tactics they use to avoid financial liability for their policyholders. The most important step you can take to protect your rights and preserve the value of your claim is to consult with an experienced Albany accident injury attorney.
Until you have the chance to meet with an auto accident lawyer, follow these guidelines to give you the best chances of prevailing in your claim:
- Follow doctor’s orders. Your medical record serves as valuable evidence for your claim. It proves your injuries occurred and provides information about the scope and severity of them. Therefore, you must keep all doctor appointments and follow your doctor’s treatment plan as closely as possible. Failure to follow doctor’s orders could give the other side grounds to argue your injuries are not as severe as you claim.
- Let your lawyer handle communications. As soon as you hire a lawyer to represent you in your car accident claim, you need to let them handle all communications with the insurance company. Insurance adjusters look for claimants to say something they can use to devalue their claims.
- Be open to negotiations. The majority of traffic accident claims settle before trial. Although you might feel angry and want your case to go all the way to court, litigation is costly. Let your attorney negotiate a fair settlement that provides you with the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
- Avoid posting on social media. Insurance investigators will uncover every fact they can to reduce the value of an accident claim. Social media provides a place for investigators to gather facts. For example, even seemingly harmless family photos can give the insurance company possible evidence to downplay a plaintiff’s injuries and avoid financial liability for their policyholder.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.