Sometimes, it seems unavoidable. We need to speed 5 or 10 mph to make it to the soccer field on time. An illegal U-turn is the quickest way to get to the office. You’re waiting for an important text message to come in and need to glance at your phone for just a second.
With so many accidents occurring because of distracted driving or a disregard for speed limits and other road signs, the question quickly becomes: Is it worth it?
We may be quick to point fingers at new drivers – teenagers who text or use social media while driving. But according to a recent study by insuranceQuotes.com, drivers aged 25 to 34 most often use their cellphones while driving. In fact, nearly half of drivers in this age range read or responded to text messages while driving. That’s more than triple the amount of drivers aged 18 to 24 who admitted to texting and driving.
With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, perhaps it’s time to turn that finger inward and look at our driving habits before shaming a population that may very well already understand the dangers of distracted driving.
As for having a heavy foot, data suggest men and women are equally likely to drive 15 mph over the speed limit in extreme situations (not including soccer games, we could guess). Roughly 40 percent of both genders would speed if they had a medical emergency, for instance, but women appeared to go one further – 13 percent admitted to driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit any time the road was clear.
Excessive speeding, regardless of road conditions, can be dangerous for several reasons. What may seem harmless can impair your ability to stop the car in an emergency (for example, if an animal unexpectedly crosses your path). Aside from the risk of an accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the annual societal cost of speeding-related crashes is more than $40 billion.
Senior insurance analyst Laura Adams blames these high costs on a steady rise in vehicle insurance premiums. “When more drivers get into accidents due to speeding or distracted driving, insurers must account for the risk by charging policyholders higher premiums,” she said. “There are many factors that influence rates, but auto premiums are likely to continue going up until drivers cut the distractions that technology makes so tempting.”
One of the most interesting findings from the study suggests our behaviors behind the wheel can be influenced by our political affiliation – though not in the way you may think. While we may judge drivers by the bumper sticker they feature, it was members of the Green Party who most often disobeyed certain rules of the road.
In medical emergencies, in particular, members of the Green party were more likely than any other political group to make an illegal U-turn or right-hand turn or use a handicapped-accessible parking space. However, Green Party members were the least likely to roll through a stop sign; nearly a quarter of Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians would do so in a personal, nonmedical emergency.
These may seem like minor offenses, but even skipping a stop sign could lead to larger and more dangerous issues. “Not only are shortcuts like running a stop sign or a red light dangerous, but even minor accidents are black marks on your driving history that can cause your auto insurance rates to rise,” Adams said. “It’s not worth the money or the risk – so stay calm and put the situation in perspective.”
While distracted driving is at the forefront of most transportation debates (and may be a leading reason why driverless car technology is in high demand), speeding and ignoring road signs are also to blame for many of the nearly 1.3 million vehicle-related deaths in the U.S. each year. Next time you’re late for a meeting, or even in a medical emergency, remember to ask yourself if it’s worth breaking the law. That simple question could save your life.