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The cost of speeding in terms of human lives

Speeding. We all do it (some more than others). The World Health Organization estimates that 40 to 50 percent of vehicles on the road are speeding at any given time. In fact, the issue is so widespread that in some areas, sticking to the speed limit can make you a target of road rage.

Whether speeding is a habit or an occasional exigency, we all have ways of justifying it. The biggest motivator? Time.

As busy Americans, efficiency is hardwired into our brains. Time is money. With countless demands awaiting our attention, why waste time?

Speeding might save you some travel time, but probably not as much as you think. And it comes at a cost.

Just how much time do you save by speeding?

Research shows that drivers tend to overestimate how much time they gain by speeding - especially at higher speeds, when the risk of accidents and fatalities rises. According to one Australian study, urban drivers who habitually speed only save an average of 1 to 2 percent of their total travel time. For a 60-minute round-trip commute, that works out to less than two minutes.

At speeds of 60 mph or more, you'd have to go at least 20 mph above the speed limit to realize any meaningful time savings. But at those speeds, you're not only more likely to catch the eye of law enforcement (and be treated with less leniency when you're pulled over), but your chances of getting severely injured or killed in an accident skyrocket.

They did the math

Just how do you quantify the cost of speeding in terms of human life?

Analyzing traffic data, one source calculated that every minute gained by speeding results in nearly 2.5 minutes of human life lost due to the increased risk of fatalities. Those lives include not only the driver but also passengers, pedestrians and others on the road.

The Australian study cited above translated the data into dollar figures. Assuming that each hour of saved travel time is valued at $6.81 (a figure supported by a broad survey), when drivers choose to speed in 60-mph zones, the increased fatality risk works out to a valuation of a $166,500 for each life lost.

Would drivers still choose to speed if they knew they were placing such a piddly value on human life?

The takeaway

Given how much we all drive on a daily basis, it's easy to forget about the risks we face every time we get behind the wheel. Yet those risks are worth taking seriously.

Don't underestimate the costly toll of speeding. It simply isn't worth it.

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