How Much Time Can I Save by Speeding
Directorate of Assessments and Prevention
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
Author’s note: Ask yourself if six minutes of your time is worth $150? First, $150 is the average cost of a speeding ticket in the United States. Second, let’s look at some of the facts and data below.
We live in a busy world where time is precious. It’s the one thing money can’t buy. Most of us would certainly prefer to spend time at our destination rather than on the road. These are often contributing factors to why many drivers speed — we want to get to work, home or our appointments on time. So why spend any more driving time than we have to? Certainly, it’s more important to get there faster so we can do more important things like reattaching ourselves to our phones or other devices, right? But is speeding really saving you that much time?
With the exception of long trips, speeding does not save more than a few minutes. The chart below details several scenarios involving trips of different lengths: 15, 30, 50 and 200 miles. Each trip length is calculated at a 35, 50 and 65 mph speed limit. It then shows how long those same trips would take at 10 and 20 mph above those limits.
The average American has a commute of about 15 miles. Looking at the chart below, ignoring traffic signals and road congestions as a factor, Trip No. 1 shows that going 10 mph over the limit will save less than six minutes on a commute that is already less than a half hour (assuming the posted limit is 35 mph the entire way). For longer commutes, assuming a low speed limit of 35 mph, going 10 or even 20 mph over the limit can save more time, but only if the posted speed limit remains 35 mph for the entire trip. In all likelihood, however, as commutes reach 30 and 50 miles in length, it’s more realistic to experience a posted limit of 50 or 65 mph. In those scenarios (Trip Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 9), the time saved for going 10 mph above the limit still hovers around six minutes.
Another interesting revelation from the chart is that the higher the speed limit is already, the less time you save by speeding. That might seem strange at first, but it makes sense — the faster you’re traveling to start with, the more you have to exceed the speed limit to achieve the same comparable increase. If you’re going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone, you’re traveling almost 30% faster than the posted limit. If the speed limit is 65 mph and you’re going 75 mph, that’s only about a 15% increase, even though in both cases you are going 10 mph over the limit.
Obviously, you can increase your time savings by traveling even faster. But once you break the speed limit by more than 10 mph, your risk of getting a speeding ticket increases substantially, and the consequences for that ticket go up as well. Think about how much time it will cost you if you get pulled over for speeding and issued a ticket. I bet that will take more than six minutes. Of course, real life isn’t as simple as a chart. Traffic lights, stop signs and the ever-dreaded traffic jam can and will whittle away at any gains, even on the longest of trips.
What’s worse than getting a speeding ticket? It would be causing or becoming a fatality. In fiscal 2021, at least 26% (19 of 74) of all Army private motor vehicle fatalities involved speeding. These are just the fatalities — think about the number of Soldiers that got “lucky” and only received a speeding ticket. Better yet, ask yourself if the potential six minutes is worth dying. What’s the difference between just getting a speeding ticket or ending up as a fatality? Some say luck, some say fate; but why risk trying to find out?
Here’s the kind of money you’d need to be banking in order for six minutes of your time to be worth $150. You’d have to make $1,500 per hour — or about $3 million per year. Even if you could financially afford to pay a ticket, is it really worth risking your or another person’s life?
Is the time gained by speeding worth the potential consequences? Look for our next article to get the answer.