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Does Driving Faster Get You There Quicker?

I was driving my 924S on infamous Interstate 4 in the Orlando area today.  If you don’t know, I-4 has over twenty miles through Orlando under a complete six-year construction project to reroute, widen, change exits – they call it the I-4 Ultimate.  I was driving around the posted limits (or a little above) and was being passed regularly by drivers going 15-30 mph faster, weaving in and out of trucks and cars across three lanes.  

Image result for i4 ultimate death tollI-4 Ultimate is an important project for Central Florida. The 21-mile makeover — from west of Kirkman Road in Orange County to east of State Road 434 in Seminole County — is transforming the region to better connect our communities, boost our economy and improve everyone’s quality of life.  (http://I4Ultimate.com)

This road is the primary highway through Orlando from Daytona Beach to Tampa/St. Petersburg, slicing the state in half.  Construction winds its way around and through and over and under new and old sections of road.  The pavement is harsh, lane markings sometimes confusing, and exit ramps are constantly changing.  Traffic is a nightmare.

Image result for porsche 944 in trafficThe speed limit on this road varies between 50 mph and 65 mph.  Typical traffic moves at 70-75, and there are some who go faster.  Trucks normally stay near or below the 65 limit as a matter of survival.  There are some, though, who brave the elements and go a lot faster, weaving their way through traffic and sometimes scaring the hell out of everyone else.  There have been five construction workers killed in this project, and I-4 has been named “The Most Dangerous Highway in the Country” due to its crash statistics – many in the construction zone.

We drive sports cars, and they like to be driven quickly.  They brake well, handle well, and threading your way through traffic is a lot easier in a 944 than, say, a ’64 VW bug.  But it begs the question – how much real time do we “gain” or “save” by going faster than everyone else?  Well, we did the math here at 924S944.com, and the answers are quite surprising.  In a word – NONE.

We did a spreadsheet for a course that I taught to emergency responders to illustrate how much time is gained by driving really fast to get to an emergency.  That same spreadsheet applies here, too.  So here are some examples.

  • Image result for fast car in trafficYou are on a crowded interstate through downtown, and traffic is moving at about 60 mph.  You weave through traffic and average 70 mph on the three miles of interstate.  How much quicker do you get through that three miles by accelerating past 70, jamming brakes, changing lanes and such?  25.5 SECONDS.  You will lose that time at a traffic light when you get off the highway.
  • You are headed to the grocery store through a 30 mph residential zone.  It’s a nice day, traffic is light, kids should be in school, so you go 50 mph, hoping that the local constabulary is busy with something else.  You go a mile and a half to get to the store.  Time gained?  A mere 71.35 SECONDS.
  • But let’s say that you are going on a longer trip – our home in DeLand to Daytona Beach.  We are running a little late and need to make up some time.  Traffic on the nine miles of interstate usually runs about 75 mph, but we juice it up by 20 mph – a smooth 95 mph.  We are hauling the mail!!  Time gained: 90.13 seconds…we will get there a minute and a half earlier.  But I know that once I get to Daytona, there is bound to be a traffic light to slow me down, and I will probably lose that ninety seconds.
  • Image result for behind a slow carTurn it around the other way – we are going through town in a 45 mph zone and we get behind an old man in a Chrysler wearing a hat…you know that guy.  He can’t see real well any more, and he’s good for about 30 mph.  We can’t pass, so we use up all the normal curse words and start inventing some new ones.  After about a mile of this we are able to pass – it took two minutes to go that mile at 30 mph.  We KNOW that he as slowed us up by a. half hour or so.  But the reality is that he has only delayed our trip by 39.64 seconds.

The message here is not that you should not speed…far from it.  The message is that crashes happen when there is a speed differential of more than a few miles per hour.  We won’t go into the physics and such of this whole thing, but know that as long as you are generally going the same speed as your partners on the road and stay out of their blind spots, you will most probably survive without bending your car or getting hurt.

Of course, crashes do happen, mostly because people do dumb things behind the wheel.  Distracted driving is a real danger these days, and while laws are being passed to try to curtail it, drivers are doing other things when they should actually be driving.

We have attached a link to the spreadsheet here if you want to play with it.

Image result for police car crashEach year there are over fifty traffic fatalities that kill emergency responders on the streets – mostly police officers.  Many of these crashes are caused by excessive speed.  This spreadsheet was developed so that we could help recruit officers understand that going really fast through traffic to get to a call was not only dangerous, but most of the time unnecessary.  

Something to think about next time you’re running late.

Speed increase computer

Image result for crashed porsche 944

Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek View All

Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.

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