Does going faster really mean you’re smarter?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Robert Noonan
  • 49th Fighter Wing chief of Safety
See if this scenario applies to you: you're driving to Las Cruces to get that cup of Starbucks coffee that you just can't get in Alamogordo and you pass someone on Highway 54 going the speed limit and you think, "Man, that guy is so dumb. He's not smart enough to go 90 like I am." 

Does speeding necessarily imply you're smart? Maybe you are not as smart as you think. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes in 2003, which translates into 13,380 lives. 

According to the NHTSA, speeding affects both the probability of a crash and the severity of injuries produced by a crash. Some research documents indicate three effects of speed on crashes and injuries. First, the probability of a crash increases substantially as a vehicle's travel speed increases. Second, other research indicates the probability of a crash increases as a vehicle's travel speed rises above or falls below the average travel speed. Third, in a crash, injury severity is proportional to the impact forces on a person, which in turn are related to the square of the change in speed. 

Think you are any smarter on a motorcycle? "The U.S. Army had 48 motorcycle fatalities last year," said Jim Patton, who works in the Army's Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Office. There were 261 traffic-accident fatalities in the Department of Defense in 2006; 94 of those involved motorcycle riders. 

How about at night, are you smarter to speed at night? According to the National Safety Council, traffic fatality rates are three times greater at night than during the day. 

Why is night driving so dangerous? Well, one obvious answer is darkness; 90 percent of a driver's reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night. Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision are compromised after sundown. 

What are some things you can do at Holloman to mitigate some of these risks? 

Take it slow in base housing. There is more of a mix of younger and older families in housing due to upcoming construction. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour, if you're not creeping in housing, then you don't have to look at the speedometer. You're probably going too fast. 

Ever seen someone pass you like you're standing still on the highway on a motorcycle wearing BDUs? Call the front gates and have him stopped to wait for you. Maybe even take him with you to talk to his supervisor; you may just save his life. Main Gate number is 572-7397 and the West Gate number is 572 5179. 

If you are driving locally at night, reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicle's speeds and distances at night. Don't overdrive your headlights. You should be able to stop inside the illuminated area. If you're not, you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle. 

If you or one of your young Airmen are going on a long road trip for leave, plan it out on U.S. Air Force TRiPS: The Air Force Travel Risk Planning System at It is an ideal tool for assessing risk posed by long distance driving, such as the driving often associated with military leave, vacations and some TDY travel. Registration is required, but not complicated. 

TRiPS facilitates communication between a traveler and his or her supervisor that focuses directly on the safety of the planned trip. We highly encourage supervisors at all levels to take advantage of this tool and make TRiPS a regular part of the leave approval and counseling process.