Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are often caused by speeding. Several factors contribute to this nationwide problem. First, Americans are busier than ever. Trying to balance work, family and personal activities in sprawling urban and suburban landscapes leads more and more people to race from place to place. Second, speed limits have been increased on interstate highways, making legal speed limits more lethal. Third, drivers are more distracted than ever. The American automobile has become an extension of the kitchen, office and communications center, as drivers eat, text and make cell phone calls while in transit.
According to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, speed is a factor in about one-third of fatal car accidents. It also costs society $23 billion in lost and ruined lives and property damage. According to the study: “The probability of death, disfigurement, or debilitating injury grows with higher speed at impact. Such consequences double for every 10 mph over 50 mph that a vehicle travels.”
Some other statistics about speed and motor vehicle accidents:
- 60% of speed-related fatal crashes occur on rural roads.
- 60% of speed-related crashes involved a single vehicle.
- 60% of speed-related fatal crashes occurred at night (6 pm to 6 am).
- Drivers involved in speed-related fatal crashes are more likely to have a history of traffic violations.
- About 1,000 Americans are killed every month in speed-related crashes.
- Speed is a significant contributing factor in crashes involving young drivers.
Under Ohio law, a personal injury victim or the estate of an individual who suffers wrongful death need not prove that the person who caused a crash (called the “tortfeasor”) was speeding at the time of car crash. It is sufficient to show that the tortfeasor failed to yield the right of way or failed to provide an assured clear distance, both of which are usually evident during the police investigation into a serious collision. The investigating officer may not even note that speed was a factor because to do so requires an admission from the tortfeasor, measurements of skidmarks and yaws or crush analysis However, based on the U.S. D.O.T. statistics, it would be worthwhile for plaintiffs attorneys to investigate speed in motor vehicle accidents to determine if a basis for punitive damages may exist due to reckless conduct.