Speeding Kills?

A lot of people don’t quite know what they are talking about sometimes and attribute certain arbitrary things as the causes of other things, when this isn’t the case.  It’s quite annoying as sometimes the generalisations are quite wrong and jsut annoy me.  That speeding for example; we are all aware of the hype about speeding killing, but this really isn’t true, as I will now demonstrate with a couple of figures and some common sense.

Firstly, lets make up some numbers, to make things easy lets say 50% of people speed and 50% of people don’t.

People that speed they have a 75% chance of causing an accident and dying while driving, the people that don’t on the otherhand have a 25% chance of causing an accident and dying while driving.

After some quick calculations (0.5*75 + 0.5*25) we can see that the chance of any given person (the average) dying while driving is 50%.

My solution to this problem? Remove the speed limits!!

If we remove the speed limits, 100% of people aren’t speeding and 0% are.  We put those numbers back into our calculations (0.0*75 + 1*25) and the chance of an average person causing an accident while driving has decreased to 25%.

Problem solved.  I rest my case!


We all know that this isn’t realistic at all.  People don’t actually die from speeding.  No one goes over 50km/h on a residential street then suddenly dies.  The increased chance of people dying comes from driving beyond the conditions and the drivers ability.

It is like a lot of things, they can’t fix the actual problem, so people come up with something that doesn’t really help.  Take the alcohol tax for example; teens were binge drinking too many spirits, raise the price of spirits, they can no longer binge on them, problem solved.  We all know this didn’t work, people simply bought other alcohol that hadn’t been taxed.

We are now at a point where people (and the government) want us to stop certain things, so they put measures in place that don’t completely solve the problem.  Instead of solving the problem they try to deterr people from getting into a position where they can make mistakes.

Imagine there was a cliff, and people kept walking over it.  What would most people do to solve the problem? Put a sign or a fence, or smack anyone that walks near the cliff over the head.  This doesn’t solve the problem, it just deterrs them and makes it harder to get into the error state.  The more adequate solution would be to educate people not to walk over the cliff, to find out why people are walking over the cliff and solve that problem.

This might all seem like just a rant, but it does have meaning, it relates back to several problems faced in design.  People never use things correctly, and making them “hard” to use incorrectly, or punishing someone for using it incorrectly isn’t good.  The problem isn’t the user, it is the design.  If a system is designed well it can’t be used incorrectly.

For the example of speeding, we should be looking at why higher speeds make us crash.  Is it that the cars fail? The tyres don’t grip? The people cannot control the vehicles at these speeds?  Or the cars simply can be driving on the roads at certain speeds?  All of these problems have other solutions.

Part of these is also training.  If people were trained better, we smarter and had more knowledge, they would know the correct speed that they can drive and they would know how to handle the car better.  In the case of the drinking, if people knew their limits and knew what large amounts of alcohol can do they wouldn’t do it.  If people knew walking over the cliff was bad they might not do it.


In the end though, there are some stupid people.  Some people can take something that has almost been designed perfectly and make a mess of it.  There is always someone who will do the wrong thing or deliberatly try to break the rules.  Designing a system that is completely idiot proof to deal with these people is almost possible.  The only solution for this is to just sit back and let natural selection take it’s course…. The idiots will have to kill themselves off eventually… right?

One Comment

  1. Kangorth
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    yeah, pretty insightful, yet you still have to love those speeding ads. like the new one that has the guy who to himself doesnt think he speeds and stuff but he has himself looking at him sarcastically reassuring him. and then when hes in a crash his ghostly self say, u better take a damn good look at urslef. some of these are really clever

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