Attorney Gordon Heuser on Speeding vs. High Profile Crash Stats

Last week, our blog focused on statistics and findings in a release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which stated car accidents cost $99 billion nationwide in 2005. We touched on what studies show are the most common causes of car accidents vs. what drivers and the rest of the public believe to be the causes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) cites “issues du jour” as distractions for the media and lawmakers, keeping them from concentrating on more significant issues behind car accidents.

Recent car accident prevention issues in Colorado Springs and elsewhere have concentrated on the recall of defective Toyota vehicles and cell phone use while driving. “The hypervisibility of these issues diverts attention from initiatives that have far greater potential to save lives,” said IIHS president Adrian Lund.

Two of the primary car accident causes he’s talking about are speeding and not stopping at intersections. According the the IIHS August Status Report, driving too fast claims 1/3 of all car crash-related deaths. Drivers running red lights cause 750 deaths and 137,000 injuries each year. Here’s another look at how Colorado Springs accident statistics relate to these claims from the IIHS.

The most recent statistics available for Colorado Springs/El Paso County from the Colorado State Patrol are from 2008. Here’s the local comparison of what the IIHS calls “issues du jour” vs. “huge highway safety problems” and the numbers of crashes they caused:

  • Driver inattentive to driving:             404 (This is before any Colorado cell phone laws were in effect.)
  • Speeding:                                           403
  • Disregarding stop sign/other device:   75
  • Vehicle defect:                                     27

The IIHS may have a legitimate argument. Looking at the comparison above, vehicle defects, while unacceptable for car manufacturers, seem less likely to cause an accident than would drivers’ bad habits. It’s hard to tell how cell phone use lines up with the other issues as the “Driver inattentive to driving” category includes all kinds of distractions, not just phone use. However the numbers above are so close, we can assume cell phone use causes fewer accidents than speeding.

Studies show that talking on a hand-held cell phone or texting while driving is distracting and causes accidents. Yet, according to the Colorado Springs statistics above, Coloradans should heed what the IIHS is saying.

Fortunately, traffic fatalities are the lowest they’ve been in Colorado for three decades. But that doesn’t mean driver education about the dangers of speeding should be overlooked. Even Drive Smart Colorado Springs tucks speeding education down under their “Driving Tips” menu. Speeding doesn’t make for a glamorous and exciting story like manufacturer recalls or drinking and driving. Speeding is causing more accidents, though.

Next week’s blog will go further into car accident causes that the IIHS claims are overlooked by the media.