Inappropriate speed – what it is and how to avoid it

Car travelling toward camer with motion blur, day.

Published 18 May 2023
Last updated 18 May 2023

In this blog we take a look at the dangers of inappropriate speed. You'll learn how managing it protects you and other road users.

Throughout human history, the idea of travelling quickly has generally been seen as exciting as it is practical. If we were wandering around ancient Britain now, for example, it would make a lot more sense to get around on horseback (the Porsche of its time!) than it would to walk. In the same way, modern inventions such as planes, trains and cars have cut down journey times, made the world a smaller place and spared our legs some hefty hiking.

So far so good. But there are some situations where speed – particularly excessive or inappropriate speed – is far from a good idea. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I am talking about driving.

What is inappropriate speed?

You’re driving at inappropriate speed if your vehicle is either exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for the road conditions. The speed limit bit is obvious enough (speed limits are there for a reason!), but what does driving too fast for the road conditions mean? Well, what we’re talking about is any speed that is unsuited to the driving situation. It’s a posh phrase, but all it means is that you’ve stopped moving at a safe speed for the conditions in which you’re driving. That could mean that the route is narrow, has blind bends, is full of children and pedestrians; or it could mean that there’re potholes, fog, driving rain or heavy traffic.

It won’t surprise you to learn that a combination of speed and any of these things (and many others we don’t have space to list!) is dangerous. It cuts down your reaction times and places you and other road users in danger. So, remember, the speed limit is not a target – it’s the maximum allowable speed at that point in your journey. It doesn’t mean you should try to drive at that speed. The rule of thumb is keep your speed down, keep scanning for hazards and pay attention to conditions around your vehicle. The faster you go, the less chance you’ll have to slow down or stop when you meet hazards.

The THINK! campaign

Our friends and colleagues at THINK! Roadsafety have just launched an excellent campaign on this topic.

They point out that ‘speed contributes to around one in four fatal collisions on our roads and kills and injures 54 young people a week.’ But despite this they say, only ’33 percent of young men consider it very risky,’ with THINK! research showing that this group ‘particularly underestimate the risks of driving just a little too fast for the conditions.’

THINK’s campaign is mainly aimed at young male drivers on rural roads. It’s accompanied by a hard-hitting video that shows the reality of driving too fast for the conditions. But inappropriate speed is not just confined to country lanes. Statistics published on the Transport for London website reveal that it’s a problem in the Capital, too. They say that inappropriate speed is ‘a factor in up to 37 percent of collisions that result in death or serious injury.’ It just goes to show that those jokes about the average speed of traffic in London are a bit of a distraction!

So what have we learned? Here’s four important things to think about next time you’re tempted to speed:

  • Keep your speed down and exercise good judgement. For example, if it’s raining heavily, it will take your vehicle longer to stop than it will take in dry conditions. Staying alert to what is happening outside your vehicle is the best way to keep yourself safe inside your vehicle
  • Get your attitude right: nothing’s so important that it justifies the risks involved in driving too quickly.
  • Take the guesswork out of it and plan your journey. This will help you work out the best time to leave and keep you up to date with the latest traffic reports
  • Don’t be tempted to take risks just because the road looks empty or you’re convinced you’re on a quiet road. Anything could be coming the other way at any time and if you’re going too fast, you won’t know until it’s too late

The Need for Read…

Well, after an entirely speed appropriate journey through this important subject, we’ve reached the end of the road. If you just can’t wait until the next time for more top tips and advice, scoot over to the Safe Driving for Life shop. We’ve got plenty of important resources to help you stay safe and get the most from your driving life, including online learning, The Official Highway Code and Driving – the essential skills.

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