Most, if not all, drivers have done it at one time or another: broken the speed limit. Whether it was accidental, overtaking someone on a freeway and not realizing just how fast you were going, or whether it was intentional to get to your destination faster – either way, speeding is a reality of life.
But it shouldn’t be. We all know the rules of the road. We’ve all seen the TV ads showing us exactly what difference those extra few miles an hour can make if the worst happens. Many of us – though sadly not as many as we’d like – don’t want to go over the limit – it just happens.
So, is there anything we can do to help stay focused and aware of the speed the vehicle is going at? Luckily, there is. Read on for eight top tips and tricks for knowing, and adhering to, the speed limit no matter where you drive.
Tip #1 – Check your speedometer
It’s the most obvious starting point, yet it’s surprising how many of us forget to do such a simple thing. For unintentional speeders, overtaking is when most offenses occur. As a general rule, your eyes are on the road and on other road users while you ensure that the maneuver is completed safely.
However, it’s worth checking your speed before you begin – if you want to do 70mph on the freeway, and you’re behind someone already doing 68mph, it won’t take much acceleration before you’re over the limit. And if you need to really put your foot down to slot in with traffic in the outside lane, is the whole thing really necessary?
Tip #2 – Know the limits
Most of us know the speed limits within our home state, but you might not be aware that those limits change in other states. The limit is as high as 80mph in Nevada and as low as 65mph in Arizona – sometimes it can be easy to assume that you are fine sticking to a freeway speed limit that you’re used, but it’s not always the case.
The other important thing to note with speed limits is that they are just that – a limit. There is no legal requirement for vehicles to drive at the speed limit at all times, or indeed at any time. So whilst you may find the car doing 22mph in a 30mph zone frustrating, they are in fact doing nothing wrong – and if you wish to go quicker, it is up to you to achieve this through legal means.
Tip #3 – Use third gear in a 30mph area
The vast majority of vehicles – with perhaps the exception of some high-end performance cars – will cope perfectly happily doing 30mph in third gear. Put your foot down a little, and many will suggest gently to you that they wish to move into the next gear up, for a more comfortable and economic drive. But in a residential low-speed area, this is a dangerous temptation to speed. Instead, use the suggestion of mild discomfort from your vehicle’s engine as a hint to check your speedometer, and drop back down to the limit if necessary.
Tip #4 – Recognize the triggers
For those of us seeking to stay within the limits of the law, we know that we’re more likely to end up speeding in certain circumstances. It’s worth recognizing these situations for what they are and thereby preparing yourself for how to deal with them.
We already mentioned in Tip #1 about deciding if overtaking is worth the increase in speed. This is especially true in congested traffic where getting ahead of someone is likely to simply get you one vehicle closer to the queue ahead. In the grand scheme of things, it’s unlikely to be of great help.
Tailgating is a situation we have less control over, but which does often prompt outbursts of speed. If you no longer need to be in your current lane – for instance, you were overtaking but have passed the vehicle in question – then the best thing to do is to move back over, and allow the person wishing to break the law to do so without involving you in. If that’s not possible, then you can always take the attitude of moral compass, and give yourself the opportunity to show the tailgater the error of their ways by demonstrating an appropriate speed with which they must duly conform.
Tip #5 – Concentrate
Here’s another blindingly obvious concept, and one that is often overlooked. We think we’re concentrating and fully aware of what is going on around us – but how aware are we of what’s going on in our own car or van? All too often, our attention is consumed with our passenger’s conversation, the radio, the kids in the back seats bickering – and not what our dashboard is telling us.
In the short term, taking up a position behind someone else who is doing your speed – especially in the nearside lane – can be a good strategy when concentration proves elusive. This is useful in roadworks, where average speed checks can easily make you lose the will to live after the first two miles.
But if the distractions around you are proving too much, you’re entirely within your right as a driver to politely ask people to be quiet, or to take a break at the next services, allowing your brain to switch off, reboot and find that extra reserve of calm and tranquillity.
Tip #6 – Get help
If you’re sitting here thinking you’ve tried all of the above and somehow that mph just seems to slip out of your grasp each time you slide behind the wheel, it may be time to bring in some help.
Many satnav systems monitor your speed and will emit annoying though well-intentioned noises if you go over the prescribed limit. They have the benefit of keeping you on the straight and narrow if you’re prone to lapses in concentration.
For the truly reckless, a limiter may be the way forward. Many of these are fitted as standard to vans and trucks (you’ll often see a sticker on the back telling you their maximum speed) and they’re designed to stop you exceeding a given speed, no matter how hard you press the accelerator.
They can be fitted to most vehicles and can be purchased from several companies. Fitting can be done at home or, if you’re not so car-savvy, many garages will fit them for you upon request.
Tip #7 – Cover your bases
Sooner or later, most people who speed are caught out by the yellow cameras by the side of the road. But what few people realize is that when those cameras clock your number plate along with your speed, they do a check against various databases to ensure that your whole vehicle is road legal. One offense will give you a few points on your license – not great if you need a clean one for work – but multiple penalties for no insurance or tax could see you lose your license altogether.
To make sure you’re legal to drive check you’re taxed and ensure you’re insured. Remember, it is always wise to use an insurance comparison site (such as Compare Van Insurance) to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Tip #8 – Is it worth it?
This is possibly the least-considered of all speed strategies, yet probably the most crucial: the ability to ask yourself, at any given moment in your journey: is it really worth it? Drivers have a perception that going faster means you get to your destination quicker. Sometimes this perception is accurate, sometimes it’s not, and sometimes it simply doesn’t matter.
One of the key messages that is passed along at speed awareness courses is this latter concept. On a journey of 100 miles – more than most people drive on their daily commute – taking the whole journey at 80mph (and in doing so breaking the law) will only get you to your destination 10 minutes sooner than if you’d done the whole thing at 70mph. For a three-mile trip to the shops, it’ll take you six minutes at 30mph, or five minutes and nine seconds at 35mph. What on earth are you going to achieve with an extra 51 seconds of time at, say, Argos?
And when you think about the potential consequences of that excess speed – which at best can involve fines and penalty points, and at worst can be life-changing for you and others around you – the simple fact remains: it’s almost always never worth it.