In a possibly unsurprising result, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that 28 percent, or nearly a third, of fatal traffic accidents and car crashes involved speeding.
Speeding was also a contributor to non-fatal car crashes, but in statistically lower proportions. Car crashes resulting in injuries only, with no deaths, involved speeding in 13 percent of cases, while speeding contributes to accidents free of both injury and death 9 percent of the time.
The methodology of the study necessarily means speeding may have contributed to a greater than reported number of fatal car crashes. Speeding was only counted as a contributor if a police officer directly confirmed speeding or racing was a cause of the accident, or if at least one involved driver was criminally charged for speeding.
Approximately 37 percent of speeding drivers involved in deadly car crashes during the study period were impaired by alcohol, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Among non-speeding drivers in an accident where someone was killed, roughly 17 percent had a similar level of impairment.
Other statistics from the NHTSA study are equally expected. Males outnumbered females at a ratio of approximately 3-to-2 in all age categories. The youngest age group, 15 to 20 years old, had the highest proportion of drivers who were speeding when the fatal car crashes occurred, with 35 percent of males speeding. Speeding remained a significant factor through the younger ages before dropping off significantly when drivers hit their 40s.
Notably, there was a sharp uptick in fatalities during 2020 and 2021, when emptier roads encouraged people to speed more while driving. Speeding-related fatalities spiked 8 percent higher in 2021 than in 2020, with both years surpassing deaths in car crashes in all the other study years by several thousand fatalities.
Other factors also show a potential increase in recklessness during the COVID-19 pandemic years. 32 percent of speeding drivers in deadly car crashes lacked a valid driver’s license at the time of the accident, and a full 51 percent were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Motorcycle drivers were most likely to be speeding during a lethal crash versus other vehicle types, at 33 percent.
The NHTSA used a decade of data for its study, starting with 2012 and running through 2021. Though the “Traffic Safety Facts” study used information from two years ago as its most recent data, the research wasn’t published until this month, July 2023.
Other recently published accident research, this time by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS, revealed that fatal crashes frequently involve muscle cars. Muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro seem to be driven with exceptional recklessness.
On the flip side, mid-size minivans, crossovers, and SUVs are among the safest, with the Chevy Traverse as a standout for safety both for its own occupants and other drivers on the road.