Travelling at inappropriate speeds increases the likelihood of a crash occurring, while physics dictates that the faster the speed, the higher the likely severity of injury caused in a crash.
If average travel speed can be reduced, it is expected that the number of people killed and seriously injured in crashes can be reduced also.
A number of studies into the link between speed and crashes have been undertaken, and common findings are:
- Small changes in mean average speeds can be expected to result in significant crash outcome changes and
- Serious injury and fatal crashes are more sensitive to speed changes than crashes generally (European Transport Safety Council 2008, p6)
Australian research also suggests that speeds 5km/h above average in urban areas and 10km/h above average in rural areas can double the risk of a casualty crash – similar to the risk associated with driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 (Queensland Transport 2008, p12). Driving under the influence of alcohol is largely seen as socially unacceptable behaviour and speeding needs to be perceived the same way.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of which Australia is a member, estimates that, at any one point in time, 50% of drivers are exceeding legal speed limits (European Transport Safety Council 2008, p7).
The difference between addressing illegal speeding and drink driving is therefore; that reducing speeding requires a larger number of non-compliers to change their behaviour, while there is a much smaller proportion of drivers who need to change their behaviour in relation to drinking and driving (European Transport Safety Council 2008, p7).
In 2010 there were 55 fatalities as a result of crashes involving speeding drivers or riders within Queensland, which represented 22.1% of the Queensland road toll (Department of Transport and Main Roads 2011, p10). Queenslanders can and do die in crashes where their vehicle is travelling at speeds higher than the speed limit, and/or too fast for the prevailing conditions.