We all know the dangers of driving too fast, and speeding is a frequent cause of motor vehicle accidents. However, driving slower doesn’t necessarily mean safer, and super-slow drivers can cause accidents too.
According to the National Motorists Association, federal and state studies have consistently shown that the drivers most likely to become involved in accidents in traffic are those traveling significantly below the average speed. According to an Institute of Transportation Engineers Study, those driving 10 miles-per-hour (mph) slower than the prevailing speed are six times as likely to be involved in an accident, meaning that if the average speed on a freeway is 70 mph, the motorist driving 60 mph is much more likely to get into a collision than a driver going 70 mph or even 80 mph.
The National Motorists Association advises that speed limits be established to the “85th percentile of free-flowing traffic,” meaning that safe speed limits should be set slightly below the natural flow of traffic to account for drivers traveling at relatively the same speed. When the majority of drivers are traveling near the same speed, traffic flow generally improves and accident rates decrease. Differences in speed cause more accidents and fatalities, and those who drive too slowly can cause car accidents.
Why is slow driving unsafe?
Slow drivers create dangers because of the effect they have on the surrounding traffic. Drivers expect others to drive the speed limit. However, when someone is driving very slowly, other drivers around them often become distracted and drive more aggressively by tailgating the slow driver, swerving to get around them, cutting them off, or slamming on the brakes due to these maneuvers. Erratic decisions to brake cause others to brake as well, sometimes leading to a multi-vehicle crash.
Why do some motorists drive too slowly?
Sometimes driving more slowly is the right thing to do – during inclement weather and when traveling near schools, railroad crossings, pedestrians, and on roads where animals might be present. However, people don’t always choose to drive slowly for safety reasons. Here are some instances when driving slowly can dramatically increase the chances of causing an accident:
- Driving slowly in the left-hand lane. Driving in the left lane (except to pass) can create traffic backups and jams, particularly if more than one car is traveling slowly and blocking multiple lanes. In 2014, Georgia passed the “slow poke law,” which compels those driving in the left lane on a Georgia highway, interstate, or expressway to move over when a car traveling faster approaches and prohibits slow motorists from lingering in the left lane, even if they’re at the speed limit.
- Neglecting to use turnouts on two-way roads. Turnouts on two-lane highways, where it is otherwise unsafe for vehicles to pass, allow slower motorists to let faster traffic to pass, which helps avoid tailgating, traffic jams, and aggression on the part of other drivers. In some states like California, a driver who has five or more vehicles behind them is required to use a posted turnout.
- Failing to follow the “zipper method.” When two lanes narrow to one, some drivers merge early and wait for traffic to advance, while others jump ahead and cut in line. Traffic experts say that the early merger is likely making traffic worse than the driver who cut in line, and here’s why: Just as a zipper smoothly moves together (most of the time), a zipper merge in which drivers merge late can keep traffic flowing in both lanes, whereas merging early and leaving a lane unoccupied is inefficient and can make traffic heavier.
- Trying to slow down traffic by reducing their speed. Some drivers become frustrated and try to retaliate against motorists who they perceive are traveling at unsafe speeds or tailgating them by intentionally reducing their speed to try to force them to do the same and “teach them a lesson.” This practice not only creates an extremely dangerous situation but can also anger the driver they’re attempting to control, further compounding the situation, and increasing the risk for an accident or road rage event.
- Driving slowly due to distraction. Some drivers become distracted when they text or talk on their cellphones, which can reduce their reaction time and cause them to drive more slowly. According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting distracts drivers long enough to travel the entire length of a football field with their eyes off the road.
Were you injured in an accident caused by a slow driver? The knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Harris Lawry Manton LLP can help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries. Call us in Savannah or Atlanta or fill out our contact form to set up a no-charge initial case evaluation today.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
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