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Speed is the leading cause of death on Texas roads, so why do we still do it?


Texas (KXAN) — Speed is the No. 1 factor contributing to crashes in Texas, and it increases the risk of death and serious injury in a wreck. The Texas Department of Transportation is raising awareness about the dangers of speeding, which was to blame for a third of deadly crashes in Texas last year.

KXAN Traffic Anchor Erica Brennes sat down with Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, two psychologists who host the Two Guys on Your Head Podcast to ask why we still have the need for speed.

Brennes: “Joining me today, I’m so excited to have you on, it’s ‘Two Guys on Your Head’ an incredible podcast, so insightful. Bob Duke, Art Markman, let’s get right into it. We’re talking about how a lot of us drive very fast behind the wheel. But speeding is the number one contributing factor to crashes in Texas. Why do we still speed?”

Markman: “Well, for one thing, a lot of times when you’re in the car, you’re there because you’re trying to get somewhere. Your goal isn’t just to enjoy the drive, your goal is to get from point A to point B. And so you’d like to do that as quickly as possible. And so you end up bending the rules and exceeding the speed limit.”

Duke: “Well, of course, we often misperceive how much going fast for some portion of a journey actually contributes to the overall duration of the the journey, right. And there are so many things about getting from point A to point B, as Art said, that are outside of our control, right? I mean, we don’t control when stop lights turn red, and we don’t control the speed of the cars in front of us, and those kinds of things. So, you know, we sort of imagine that we’re picking up some extra time because we speed when we can, and then we get slowed down by some slow poke, or the light changes that we’ve missed the light. But really, when you think about it, when we’re responding to what’s going on around us in a car, we’re responding as we often do, because as Art said, we’re trying to get somewhere, sometimes we’re stressed or anxious. And one of the consequences of being stressed or anxious is our judgment is impaired. So we may misjudge how fast we can go safely, or whether that yellow light’s yellow, not too long yet, or I could run it. I mean, all those kinds of decisions we’re making, not with our best judgment, because of the stress and anxiety that we’re usually feeling when we’re late. And we have to get someplace and we know we don’t have enough time to actually get there going the speed limit.

Markman: “And of course, paradoxically, we’re surrounded by all the safety equipment. You’ve got a seatbelt, you’ve got a car that’s been designed to withstand a crash, you’ve got airbags, and so you get, I think, an additional sense of security from that, that makes you feel like, ‘well, you know, I’m probably going to be okay, even if I speed.’”

Duke: “And I think too, you know, something that needs to be mentioned, is that we don’t feel the negative consequences of speeding every time we speed, right? We don’t always get a ticket. We don’t always have an accident. In fact, we seldom do either of those things. So when we speed, even if our perception that we got where we’re going faster is elusive, and we didn’t really get there faster, what our brains learned is, ‘hey, that speeding thing, you know, keep that up.’ Right? So, because it seems like, you know, it was to our benefit, and there were no negative consequences. And, and of course, what’s interesting is when we do have negative consequences for speeding, how it affects our behavior in the short term, right? After we get a ticket, next few days, maybe a week, you know, we’re going slower, and we’re back to the same thing again.”

Brennes: “As far as our day to day lives, you know, there probably are a lot of people that speed, which is against the law. There aren’t very many other scenarios of your day to day life, where so many people are just consciously breaking the law. So why do we continue to do this?”

Markman: “That speed limit, it’s a kind of a guideline, right? I mean, that’s, that’s the way we treat it culturally, that’s, you know, it’s ‘ish,’ it should say ‘ish’ at the end. It’s 30ish. And so most people think, ‘yeah, I’ve got an extra five miles that I can do.’ And in fact, you know, most of us,, as Bob was saying, I mean, not only do you rarely get speeding tickets, but you’ve probably gone through speed trap at a few miles over the speed limit, but you were you were inside the kind of acceptable zone. So you’ve done it under the nose of the authorities, and they’ve said it was okay, so you’ve actually been blessed for the behavior in some ways. Look, you go through that thing they show you — they have those radar signs now where they show you what your speed is, and you’re doing five, six miles over the speed limit. It doesn’t say ‘you’re in trouble,’ it’s just ‘slow down.’

Duke: “The other thing I want to say about this, too, is just the social acceptability of speeding right is that usually when I’m on MOPAC, and I’m going over whatever the posted speed limit, so is everybody else. So it’s not like, you know, I’m the lone wolf, who’s out there, flaunting the speed limit is and so, you know, as Art was saying, this is sort of a social phenomenon. I don’t think there are many people, I don’t know, maybe somebody who’s new to driving or something, who have now come to the belief that the speed limit is whatever it says it is. And there’ll be consequences for that. And, you know, I could end speeding on MoPac in a day, if you let me be in charge, and here’s what I’d do. Anybody caught speeding, cop pulls you over, we confiscate your car, that’s it, you have no car. Now, it would take a day, because at first, nobody would quite believe it, until they saw all these impounded cars parked on the shoulder MoPac. And then people wouldn’t be driving, you know, 65, they’d be good driving 61. Just to be sure they don’t run afoul of whatever the radar is in the police car.

Brennes: So perhaps the consequence of speeding is, ‘okay, so I’ve got to pay the fine. And I’ve got to take driver’s ed course. And then I’m done. I didn’t go to jail,’ or, you know, I didn’t unless of course, you’re driving with other issues. But for the most part, yeah, you’re not getting your car taken away. So it’s just a little bit of a risk.

Brennes: “Do y’all have any advice, to get behind the wheel with a more mindful attitude, to realize the consequences from a safety standpoint are high, you might not get your ticket, but you might get in a really bad crash, entering your time behind the wheel with a more mindful attitude to not feel rushed.”

Markman: “I think all of us just need to be grateful every day that we’re up and moving about and doing well. And, remember that, even a small chance of doing something that can impair that mobility is worth taking very seriously. You know, I had a nasty biking accident a year ago, and spent many weeks where I couldn’t walk and I’ll tell you, I am grateful to be up, around and moving. And I think that, that you don’t have to have gone through an experience like that, to appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to just move around the world. And so you know, having that gratitude for being able to be physically engaged in your world is just important and reminding yourself that not taking risks with that is actually a really important thing.

Duke: “And I think anything that we can do to slow down our thinking, before we get in a car. You know, when we’re in a hurry, and we’re thinking fast, we’re more likely to make poor decisions about all kinds of things, you know, whether to change lanes really quickly, or trying to get to an exit that I might have missed or those kinds of things. And I think just taking a minute, you know, when you get in a car to take a breath, you know. I mean the reason people this old, psalm about counting to 10 you know, when you’re angry and that kind of thing, all those things have one purpose. And that’s to slow down your thinking, right? That you’re not acting on the basis of your how you’re thinking right away. And I think taking a moment to do that puts you in a different frame of mind when you start the car and start moving. And the second thing I’ll say to almost everybody now has access to a cell phone, right? And if you’re not going to get someplace, when you think you are supposed to be there, rather than just rushing to try to get there, call the place or text the place, you’re going to say, you know, I’m probably gonna be 10 minutes late. Not when you’re driving, before you start, and just sort of take the pressure off, you know. And now it’s like, ‘okay, I’ve already declared that I’m going to be late, and so I’m not going to have to speed because everybody knows I’m going to be there at 10 after instead of on the hour.’”


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