We don’t notice our speed creeping up, we feel pressured by other drivers to go faster, we’re in a rush, or we think we can ‘handle it’. These are just some of the many rubbish reasons that many drivers break speed limits and consequently crash and kill.
Driving slowly, particularly in towns, villages and on rural roads, is your most important pledge and requires your constant attention. The faster you go, the less time you have to react and avoid, and the harder you hit.
The safest speed may be much lower than the speed limit. In the UK, for example, many speed limits in areas around schools, shops and houses are still 30mph; a killing speed for pedestrians. Drive at 20mph or slower as necessary in these environments. Rural roads may also have speed limits that are far too high, yet are treated, lethally, by some drivers as their private race tracks with no-one else on them. A large proportion of road deaths happen on rural roads.
- There is a cyclist over the next brow who has crashed in the middle of the road.
- There is a child about to run out between those parked cars.
- It is night and a drunk man wearing black is about to wander out of that pub straight into the road.
- There is a motorcyclist that you need to let pass at the next junction.
- The bend coming up is much tighter than you think.
How often have you heard a driver who has crashed say to you that ‘the other person came out of nowhere’? Predict the predictable.
- Regularly glance at your speedo if you aren’t sure of your speed.
- Remember how it feels to drive at slower speeds so driving slowly becomes a habit and you will feel the difference if your speed starts to creep up, as well as being able to see it on your speedo.
- Never drive if stressed or rushed. If you are late, ring ahead to say you will be, then take it easy. There is never a good enough reason to drive too fast.
- Keep your distance. Don’t harrass the driver in front to go quicker by driving on their tail. Keep at least two seconds between you and the vehicle in front, and longer in wet conditions or the dark.
- Think once, think twice, think bike. It can be hard to spot motorcyclists or cyclists and give way to them, particularly at junctions, because they are less visible than a car or larger vehicle.
- Drive slower at night. You can’t see so far and lights might dazzle you. There still might be pedestrians and cyclists around too, and they, and other drivers, are more likely to be drunk and make mistakes that you need to avoid.
- Lightening fast reactions or a great vehicle with superb brakes make negligible difference to stopping distances. If you feel a need to practice your driving skills at fast speeds, go to your local race track.
- Fast drivers are most likely to be over-confident males. Look yourself in the mirror, and if this is you, slow down on behalf of your family, friends, and other road users.
- Check up on the weather and slow down or don't drive at all if treacherous. You can also read our bad weather driving guidance and our guidance on the dangers of driving in ice and snow
Make a policy never to overtake unless it is extremely safe and extremely obvious that you should. For example, if you are overtaking a 5mph tractor on a very straight stretch of road. In most cases you won’t need to overtake because the vehicle in front is going at a perfectly acceptable speed. Instead, hang back and relax. You won’t get there much quicker by overtaking, and you might not get there at all. Many deaths on rural roads are caused in head-on collisions by drivers overtaking at speed who hit a vehicle coming in the other direction. If your policy is to ‘overtake as quickly as possible in case something comes the other way’ then you are a dangerous driver and need to stop overtaking. Breaking a speed limit to overtake is not legal.
For more information on the dangers of speed, go to our fact sheets.
In memory of Brodie Davidson Fraser, 21, who died on 30 November 1997.
Brodie was walking along the edge of a country road, near the village of Tollerton, Nottinghamshire, when he was hit by a car driving on the wrong side of the road.
His best friend witnessed the crash. Brodie leaves behind loving parents and Karen, his girlfriend.