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Certain Driving Conditions Warrant Speed Reduction

Many teens are so excited to get their driver's licenses that much of the training they received prior to licensure is quickly forgotten. But it's important for new drivers to follow the fundamental rules of the road, and adapting speed to conditions is one rule that's frequently broken.

Driving too fast for conditions is considered speeding and can result in a traffic ticket. But that's not the only reason to slow down - driving too fast for conditions is a contributing cause of many motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds (based on 2005 figures, which are the latest mortality data currently available from the National Center for Health Statistics).

A 2009 analysis of speeding-related crashes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that following the speed limit is not enough to prevent a crash when conditions warrant a reduction in speed. The study showed that in speeding-related crashes that caused one or more injuries, 26% of the crashes were contributed to be exceeding the posted speed limit, while 74% were due to driving too fast for conditions. In property-damage-only crashes where speed was a contributing factor, 18% of the crashes were due to exceeding the posted speed limit and 82% of the crashes were contributed to by driving too fast for conditions. Drivers should reduce their speed:
  • immediately when it begins to rain
  • when roads are slippery due to snow or ice
  • in foggy or smoky conditions
  • before a curve
  • in construction zones
  • around school zones and playgrounds
  • at night

It's also important to monitor your speed carefully on rural roadways with higher speed limits.

Passengers may encourage the driver to travel at or above the speed limit. Resisting this pressure is an important exercise in maturity for teen drivers and is an integral part of keeping their driver's licenses. Unfortunately, it could even be a life-and-death matter.

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