Speed - Grin with cat attached
Previous Entry Next Entry
Speed May. 6th, 2004 02:18 pm

The ethics of speeding

Speeding is a unique crime of our time; not only is it socially accepted, but in many cases it seems to be socially mandated; those sticking to the limit are frequently intimidated by those trying to speed - often in dangerous and aggressive fashions. Speeding, despite major campaigns to counter it, is the norm in locations where it is possible to speed.

Leaving aside the aggresive methods of those wishing to support speeding, what's wrong with it?

1) Well, bottom line is, it kills. Over 1000 people a year in the UK directly in accidents - and many thousands more are injured.
2) Secondly, the social damage it causes is immense (although near-invisible). Kids used to play in the street - remember that? Now they're scared off the roads, leading to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, increased incidences of type two diabetes, asthsma and heart disease.
3) These illnesses are aggravated in all ages by the extra pollution released by faster, more aggresive driving, which involves greater accelerations and resulting fuel usage.
4) And it's not just kids that are scared off the road either. The increased risk and aggresive atmosphere of streets and roads where speed is the priority drives off pedestrians and cyclists of all ages, impacting their health and "forcing" many to drive - leading in a vicious cycle to increased traffic and more aggression on the roads.

The general excuse for speeding is "it won't hurt anyone". Generally this only consiers risk 1) above, but even then it is flawed. Primarily in that the claim that excess speed produces *no* extra risk can never be true, but more generally in the wider social implications of the decision to speed.

In deciding to speed, in any situation, you give your implicit permission to anyone else to speed, in any situation.

The natural reaction to this statement is "of course I don't". Well no, you may not be doing it intentionally. But, in deciding that either 1) you know better than the law or 2) you know better than anyone else (both attitudes prevalent in many advanced driving instructors, correctly or otherwise), you create an instance in which it's OK for someone "better than most" to speed.

Of course, everyone thinks they're better than most. So everyone thinks that means you're happy for them to speed.

But, comes the invariable rejoinder, it was safe (or even 'appropriate') for me to speed *in that instance*.
Again, you're rating your skills above those of everyone else, above the traffic professional who set the limit in that area; further, you're assuming that you know *everything* about the road in question, and that your joy-riding or time-saving is of greater social import than the inevitable impact of your actions.

Yes, maybe - for example - there's no pedestrians on or near that road. Ever wondered why?

Consider also the fact that your use of speed in places you consider "safe" will invariably skew your speed perception for other locations.

And the claim of "appropriate speed" on public roads is another strange one. "Appropriate speed" means keeping it down, keeping it safe. Using higher speeds is only ever "appropriate" in combat or properly controlled racing (generally, for motorsports, away from the public highway). Your wish to get somewhere quicker, or an andrenaline buzz, is not an overriding concern of the rest of society.

Genuinely appropriate behaviour on the roads is that of consideration and care, rather than the selfishness, even arrogance, of speed; of awareness of the risks and impacts you cause and an understanding of how you can mitigate them.

14th June 2003