Speeding does not directly cause accidents, but it creates conditions where accidents are more likely to occur and increases the severity of the injuries that result from those accidents, some of which may prove life-threatening. Below, we cover everything you need to know about speeding as it relates to traffic accidents. This information will provide insight into the specifics of your accident if you recently suffered injuries in a speeding-related accident in Syracuse and will also help you determine whether you qualify to pursue compensation for your injuries.
Speeding Includes More Than Just Noncompliance With the Posted Speed Limit
If you or someone you know has received a speeding ticket, you know police officers typically issue the citation for going over the speed limit. If you suffered injuries in a Syracuse speeding accident or lost a loved one at the hands of a speeding driver, you should first determine how fast the driver was traveling. In New York and other states, the posted speed limit is the maximum speed at which drivers should operate their vehicles on a roadway. It’s not, however, always the safest speed for the situation. At times drivers may actually speed while traveling at or below the posted speed limit.
New York law specifically prohibits drivers from operating at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent, and drivers must account for actual and potential hazards when determining the proper speed.
Examples of circumstances where a driver might be speeding but still traveling at or below the posted speed limit include:
- Inclement weather. Syracuse receives its share of snow, like other areas of upstate New York. Traveling the posted speed limit during a snowstorm or freezing rain is often far too fast for weather conditions. Even during warm summer months, heavy rain poses a danger of hydroplaning, requiring drivers to reduce their speeds.
- Poor road conditions. Snowy weather often leaves roads with ice and/or packed snow that can lead to dangerous crashes when drivers do not take care, even after plows go through. Drivers in Syracuse also face poor road conditions in the summer. Poorly maintained roads with cracks and potholes from years of rain, snow, and erosion pose a risk for those who speed.
- Heavy traffic. Operating a vehicle at any speed that impedes the flow of traffic can lead to dangerous accidents. Speeding in traffic often coincides with drivers who weave in and out, trying to get past other vehicles. Going too fast in road construction zones also constitutes speeding, even if a driver is going slower than the posted limit. However, traveling too slow, especially on Interstates 81, 481, or 90, can lead to an accident. An accident that occurs because a driver goes too slow is also speed-related.
Police sometimes issue a reckless driving citation for drivers who cause a speed-related accident. Even if the driver who caused your injuries or the loss of your loved one didn’t receive a speeding ticket, it doesn’t always mean that speed did not play a role in causing the accident.
Why Is Speeding Dangerous?
Depending on the year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) attributes about 25 percent of traffic fatalities across the United States to speeding. When you zoom in on New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) crash data in Onondaga County, where Syracuse lies, the statistics are even more alarming. Speeding-related accidents in and around Syracuse account for more than 30 percent of fatal accidents on average. Some years, speeding resulted in over 40 percent of fatal traffic crashes in the area, putting it among the most common causes of fatal accidents.
These alarming statistics show the consequences of speeding, but why does speeding lead to such a high fatality rate during car accidents in Syracuse? The dangers of speeding include:
Decreased Reaction Time
Driving safely means drivers must take in the information they get from the road, process it, and react appropriately. Except for trained race car drivers, drivers who speed reduce their reaction time. Additionally, each person processes information at a different speed, and as people age, their reaction time naturally decreases. Speeding makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, for drivers to stop for an animal, child, or other unexpected road hazards. Speeding also makes it difficult to react to other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, especially when approaching busy intersections.
Higher Chance of Losing Control
Speeding can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles in two ways. First, driving takes manual dexterity, and operating a vehicle at excessive speeds makes it more sensitive to quick movements, increasing the strength it requires to operate a vehicle. Drivers in large trucks and other vehicles that are more difficult to maneuver risk losing control because of their high centers of gravity. Speeding around corners and turns shifts the center of gravity, potentially causing drivers to lose control and roll their vehicles.
Second, losing control of a speeding vehicle also relates to decreased reaction time. If a speeding driver comes upon an unexpected road hazard, it’s more difficult to avoid the hazard. Quick jerks, maneuvers, and slamming on the brakes all make it difficult for drivers to maintain control. Those who travel at lower speeds can navigate and avoid hazards more easily and are less likely to sustain injuries in a serious or fatal accident.
Increased Stopping Distance
As speed increases, drivers need more time to slow or stop their vehicles. Two major things that impact a vehicle’s stopping distance include reaction time and braking distance. Reaction time, sometimes called thinking distance, refers to the distance that a driver requires to recognize a hazard and for the brain to send a message to stop. Braking distance refers to the distance it takes a vehicle to come to a stop after applying the brakes.
The larger the vehicle, the longer the braking distance. The average passenger vehicle needs 207 feet to come to a stop when traveling at 65 miles per hour. Comparatively, a semi-truck needs 720 feet—the length of two football fields—to stop completely. Drivers who travel at the appropriate speed, taking into account the posted speed limit, road conditions, and weather conditions, have a better chance of stopping or slowing down to avoid a traffic collision.
Higher Crash Impact
Two things affect the force or impact of a traffic collision: weight and speed. As the speed of a vehicle increases, so does the impact of a crash, making high-speed collisions especially dangerous. A higher crash impact is one of the reasons that those involved in speeding accidents suffer more severe injuries and have a higher likelihood of suffering fatal injuries. SUVs and other large passenger vehicles, as well as trucks, are a double threat when traveling at a high speed. The worst possible scenario is two large vehicles colliding when one or both are excessively speeding. In this situation, the chances of survival are slim.
Reduced Effectiveness of Safety Devices
All modern vehicles come equipped with seat belts and airbags to help prevent injuries when a traffic accident occurs. Car manufacturers continually test the effectiveness of these safety devices, especially as they relate to a vehicle’s speed. Each vehicle and device is slightly different, but the consensus is that excess speed reduces the effectiveness of seat belts and airbags. Once your vehicle exceeds the maximum speed limit for safety devices, you risk that the safety devices in your vehicle will not work properly during a collision.
What Motivates Drivers to Speed?
The NHTSA considers speeding a form of aggressive driving and attributes speeding to four main situations:
Heavy traffic is typically the factor most commonly associated with speeding drivers. Traffic congestion increases the time it takes drivers to reach their destinations. Drivers without patience may try to make up time by speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. It’s not surprising if you suffered a speeding-related traffic accident in Syracuse during the busiest traffic times during the day.
Most people have hectic lives with full schedules. Drivers rush from home to work, school, or some other appointment or obligation. Even with the best intentions, some people are always running late. Instead of leaving a few minutes sooner, some try to avoid being late by speeding. Running late and tight schedules sometimes correlate with heavy traffic. It’s not uncommon for the combination of these factors to entice a driver to go faster than is safe.
Some drivers feel a sense of anonymity when behind the wheel. They don’t feel social pressure to conform to laws and rules. This translates into drivers speeding because they aren’t worried about the social repercussions of their actions. It’s doubtful they will ever see any of the drivers they share the road with again, especially in a large city like Syracuse.
A reckless driver may have caused your Syracuse speeding accident. Some drivers have no regard for the law and do not care about the safety of others on the road. Fortunately, recklessness isn’t as common of a speeding factor as others. Still, when reckless drivers do speed, they also typically engage in other aggressive driving behaviors that can lead to dangerous and deadly traffic crashes.
Speeding Accident Victims May Suffer Severe Injuries
Those who survive the impact of a speeding-related traffic accident face a wide range of injuries. New York’s no-fault insurance laws give injured drivers and occupants a pathway to recover economic losses for minor injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. When severe injuries occur, accident victims must step outside the no-fault insurance system to recover additional compensation. Severe accident injuries that typically lead to an insurance claim against the speeding driver and/or a car accident lawsuit include:
Some accident victims break several bones during a traffic crash. Multiple fractures typically require one or more reconstructive surgeries that often include hardware, such as screws, plates, and others that orthopedic surgeons use. Even after surgery, victims sometimes experience pain and discomfort near the site of their injuries. Some face a lifetime of difficulties, especially with arthritis and pain related to scar tissue.
Head traumas from traffic accidents are among the leading causes of brain injuries in Syracuse and across the United States. Indirect and direct traumas can leave accident victims with lifelong complications from permanent brain damage. In the worst-case scenario, families must care for a loved one who is in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) from their brain injuries. Other long-term issues include residual headaches, struggles with memory, and a variety of other cognitive and motor functions.
Back and Neck Injuries
The impact of a car accident forces bodies to move into unnatural positions, which often leads to injuries. Back and neck injuries are common. They can include damage to the soft tissue of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. However, neck and back injuries also include damage to vertebrae and discs along the spinal column.
In the most severe cases, broken vertebrae can lead to a potentially permanent spinal cord injury. Back and neck injuries are often painful. Victims struggle to find comfort standing, sitting, and lying down, and some suffer from headaches. Victims often require surgery, but those who suffer the most severe back and neck injuries rarely make a complete recovery. Permanent spinal cord injuries leave accident victims paralyzed to some degree, depending on the location of their injuries.
Getting Legal Help After a Speed-Related Accident in Syracuse
Speeding is a dangerous habit that may lead to property damage, severe injuries, and even death. If you have recently suffered injuries in a speed-related accident, you have legal options to recover damages from the driver who caused the accident.
An experienced Syracuse auto accident attorney can help you through the claims and lawsuit process. More importantly, car accident lawyers have the knowledge, skills, and connections to uncover the facts of the accident and prove that a driver was indeed speeding when the accident occurred. This does not necessarily increase the amount of compensation that you may receive, but it does help ensure that liability falls on the other driver rather than on you.
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.