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Speed kills!

More years ago than I want to admit, when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I remember being really impressed by a message spelled out in great big letters on one of those giant Foster & Kleiser outdoor billboards.

The sign was atop a building on the northwest corner of world famous Hollywood and Vine. A few years later I would be working just up Vine Street from there at the Capitol Records Tower, but that’s a story for another day.

At the time there was an entrepreneur and innovator known as “Madman” Muntz, some say a consumer electronics genius for his pioneering work with car stereo systems, who was turning heads with his unorthodox ad campaigns.

This was when TV was not all that common in American households and Muntz was promoting sales for his line of low priced television sets. His sign read simply “STOP STARING AT YOUR RADIO!” with a cartoon rendering alongside with Muntz in his signature Napoleon outfit. Later on, during my own advertising career, I would refer to this as one of my personal Top 10 one-line favorites.

So, what has this to do with driver safety? Well, I also remember that about the same time there was another memorable billboard popping up around town. Spelled out in great big letters on these were just two words: “SPEED KILLS!”

The city had located these signs at strategic places around town in an effort to get drivers to think about the dangers of driving too fast. Excessive speed was the number one cause of traffic deaths then, as it is today. Speed not only determines the extent of damage and injury in a crash but more importantly determines whether or not we survive.

In a report published a few years ago, the state patrol in my state made a stunning announcement. They revealed that most of their traffic stops for speeding on a certain 300 mile stretch of the Interstate were drivers traveling at speeds from 90 to 110 miles per hour. This is incredible!

Any racing pro will tell you that those speeds belong on a track, and that anyone driving at those speeds on a public roadway is either clueless about the consequences or suicidal!

Speeding is an even greater problem in towns and cities where the dangers are manifold and more people are usually involved. I have no problem with Joe “Dirt Track” Fuzzbrain, the NASCAR wannabe, and now the all-too-often Ms. Fuzzbrain, driving at warp speed into a wall and making him-or-herself unrecognizable. Just don’t take others with you, which is too often the case.

I’ve never been able to get a handle on why so many otherwise intelligent and law-abiding people get behind the wheel and are suddenly transformed into lawless, wild-eyed zombies, hell-bent on getting there yesterday whether they need to or not.

Ample studies have shown that faster is not sooner, especially in towns and cities where the risks multiply exponentially. I suppose this is somehow a reflection of our social condition which seems to be immediate gratification regardless of the cost.

We have to do it now, have it now, and get there now! If you’re one of these people, my advice to you is simple: If you want to get there sooner, leave sooner! Slow down and enjoy the ride.

Next time you’re driving in town do this little study on your own. Decide you will drive at the posted speed limit to wherever you’re going for a period of let’s say — I’ll make it easy on you — 15 minutes. I’ll give you maybe 30 seconds max before you cave in, become a follower and start breaking the law. Good driving is not easy.

If you’re able to stay at the speed limit, notice how other drivers come up behind you, tailgate dangerously, then pass you and speed ahead. Expect the one-finger salute from some. Then note how many of those same drivers are waiting for you at the next stop light.

My teen students are always delighted by this. “Wow!” they exclaim, “I never noticed that before!”

By driving too fast in town all you do is waste your gas and wear out your brakes. Oh, you might gain a minute or two but you have to ask yourself, “Is getting there a little sooner worth putting myself and others at risk of death or injury?”

Speed Kills!  This is not about how to drive, it’s is about staying alive!

About Robert Sears

Robert Sears is a professional driving instructor who once owned a company that trained more than 70,000 people to drive. Today he is an author working on several non-fiction books and writing traffic safety articles for consumer and special interest publications. He is a 30-year motorhome owner who has logged several hundred thousand miles of RV driving experience.

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