Archive for October 9th, 2008

Speed: Are Teens the Only Problem?

Ford’s new “MyKey” program has been getting a lot of press. As Scientific American sums up:

“MyKey has a transponder chip that, once plugged into the ignition, allows car owners to program their car’s computer. This includes setting the car’s maximum speed limit as high as 80 miles per hour, and to issue warning chimes when the car’s speed reaches 45, 55 or 65 miles per hour. Although a driver can still do a lot of damage at 80 miles per hour, and it exceeds most speed limits, this speed does allow for more maneuverability during highway driving (particularly if a driver needs to pass the car ahead).”

All the press has noted that this is meant as a way for parents to have some influence over their son’s or daughter’s driving. Given the overinvolvement of teens in serious crashes, on balance I think it’s a worthwhile idea (even if an 80 MPH governor is quite beside the point on, say, a normal suburban road).

But I also wonder about the subtle message these sort of technologies and programs send. Indeed, whenever you hear about some program to monitor driver behavior or provide driver feedback, it always seems to be oriented towards teens. This makes sense on the level that learners need the most feedback and monitoring, and are at the highest risk on the road, but it also seems to suggest that the rest of us are quite fine to go at whatever speed we think is OK, and that there’s nothing really to address in that.

When you look at the numbers of speed-related crashes, the evidence suggests the problem is hardly limited to teens. As I’m currently in Canada, I’ll refer to some Canadian research (though there’s little reason to doubt it’s much different in the U.S.).

Looking at this report from Transport Canada, it’s quite clear that younger drivers pose the greatest risk in terms of speed — some one in three fatal crashes happened to drivers between 16-24 (that age range obviously extends beyond the teenage years).

But it hardly stops there. Overall, some eighty percent of speeding drivers in fatal crashes are under 45. And one of the most interesting trends identified was that speed-related crashes were actually growing faster among drivers over 45 years of age than those younger than 45, as the chart below notes.

Clearly, it’s more than a “teen driving” issue — and it raises the question of who’s minding the minders.

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2008 at 8:58 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
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May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
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June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
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July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
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Honda R&D Americas
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INFORMS Roundtable
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October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
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Yale University
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Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
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University of Delaware
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Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

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Fondo de Prevención Vial
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Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

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Australasian Road Safety Conference
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Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
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Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
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California Association of Cities
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American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
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April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
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Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
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January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
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January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
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Australian Road Summit
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New York State Association of
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August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
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September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
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Grand Rapids MI



October 2008

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