NHTSA Plans Survey, Research to Find Out Why Drivers Speed

speed sign
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With continuing concerns about speeding on the nation’s highways, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to conduct a survey-research effort to ask 1,500 drivers with one or more recent speeding tickets why they speed — and why others with no violations don’t speed.

To conduct the survey for the research effort, NHTSA is seeking approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget for a voluntary survey of licensed drivers in Washington state, age 18 and older. The study will coordinate with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and Washington Department of Licensing to survey drivers in the state who received one or more speeding convictions in the last three years, and drivers not convicted of speeding in that same time frame, according to an Oct. 25 Federal Register announcement.

“Speeding continues to be a major safety problem,” the agency said. “In 2019, speeding was a contributing factor in 26% of fatal, 12% of injury, and 9% of property-damage-only crashes. Motor vehicle crashes in 2019 where at least one driver was speeding accounted for 9,478 fatalities. That same year, 326,000 people were injured in speeding-related traffic crashes.”

The announcement said speeding behavior is an area for which NHTSA has developed comprehensive programs to meet its injury reduction goals. The major components of speeding safety programs are education, enforcement and outreach, with legislative efforts added to the mix, the announcement said.

There have been heightened concerns that speeding has spiked since the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Speeding was again a top priority in July for this year’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Operation Safe Driver Week, after inspectors last year in July issued more speed-related citations than for any other unsafe driver behavior. In last year’s summer event, inspectors issued 9,349 citations and 2,929 warnings for speed-related offenses to passenger vehicle drivers, and 1,690 speed-related citations and 2,549 warnings to commercial motor vehicle drivers. (CVSA has not yet released the results of this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week.)

Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a “notice of intent” to issue a speed-limiter rule sometime next year in an attempt to curb speeding and conserve fuel.

If approved by OMB, the voluntary study will use a self-administered web-based survey with a paper survey option available. It will include general and speeding-specific questions about moral reasoning (judgments about rightfulness and wrongfulness), legal reasoning (judgments about lawfulness and unlawfulness), and attitudes and perceptions of laws, enforcement and sanctions. Past speeding behavior and intent to speed in the future will also be assessed.

In conducting the proposed research, the survey will use computer-assisted web interviewing to facilitate ease of use and maximize data accuracy. Although web will be the primary data collection mode, a paper questionnaire will be sent to households that do not respond to the web invitations.

NHTSA said the proposed survey will be anonymous, and it will not collect any personal identifying information. The collection will only require respondents to report their answers, and there will be no record-keeping costs to the respondents. Individuals receiving a survey invitation will receive compensation in return for their activities.

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The results of the research will assist NHTSA in better understanding how to develop successful programs to improve driver safety. The technical report will be distributed to a variety of audiences interested in improving highway safety. Its goal will be to develop countermeasures, particularly in the areas of communications and outreach intended to reduce speeding.

To address the safety problem, NHTSA has provided state highway safety offices and safety advocates with information on attitudes and behaviors of drivers who speed, including changes across time, and classified speeder types.

“NHTSA is continuing these efforts and attempting to assist the development of more tailored countermeasures by conducting this new study to evaluate additional psychological factors that may predict speeding behavior,” the agency said.