How Speeding Can Make You Go Far


Dear Lifehacker,

I actually have a simple question: does speeding really help you get to your destination any faster? I are typically a more conservative driver and yes it drives my boyfriend crazy (who always goes 10mph over the speed limit. I’m pretty sure that between red lights and traffic, there’s not sufficient time saved for it to even matter. Which one folks is right? 23


Drive Smarter, Not Faster

Dear Smarter,

If you’re trying to figure out whether speeding makes it worth while is the legal cost, well, the first thing to establish. Even if we might prove that speeding is actually a more efficient method to get from one location to another, it’s illegal and fines might cost hundreds of dollars. Not to mention the increased potential for getting into an auto accident. For your safety of everybody on the road, maintain the possible consequences in mind while driving.45678

That being said, we won’t pretend that speeding isn’t a fairly common occurrence. In most states, you can get away with under 10mph on the speed limit. For reference sake, we’ll take a look at exactly how much an extra 10mph can help.

Mathematically, Speeding Only Helps On Long Car Trips910

Before we account for traffic lights, other drivers, or delays, let’s examine some elementary math. We’ll look at some different length trips-say, 15, 30 and 50 and 500 miles-as well as several different speeds. This chart shows just how long each trip would take at the speed limit, the length of time it would take at 10 mph over it, and how much time you save by speeding: 1112

Does Speeding Really Enable You To Get There Any Faster?



As you can see, unless you’re going on a really long car trip, enough time savings for speeding are actually pretty minimal. By far the most time saved on a trip shorter than 500 miles is approximately 12 minutes (Trip G above). However, that’s on a journey that’s already an hour long. Consider traffic lights and congestion (which we’ll get to in a bit) and those savings can disappear quickly.17181920

The better the speed limit is already, the less time you save by exceeding it, not more,. That’s what’s more fascinating. This might seem counter intuitive. The faster you’re traveling in the first place, the more you must exceed the pace limit to achieve the same proportionate increase. If the speed limit is 35 mph and you’re going 45 mph, you’re traveling nearly 30% faster than the speed limit. That’s only about a 15% increase.21 if the speed limit is 65 mph and you’re going 75 mph

Ironically, the one situation in which speeding results in any substantial gains-during a long car trip on high speed freeways-occurs when mild speeding helps the very least. Obviously you are able to increase those time savings by traveling even faster, but once you break the rate limit by more than 10 mph, you lose the indulgence of many law enforcement officers. This is a bad idea over the board.

Almost All Theoretical Gains are Lost In Traffic22

Math is fun and all, but it’s not that indicative of real life. During high traffic hours or in heavily populated areas, the hypothetical time savings go out your window. For starters, you can’t maintain any constant speed, a lot less one that exceeds what all others is traveling at. Every time you stop at a traffic light you lose gains as your vehicle slows down approaching the intersection, while you wait for the light to transform green, and while you accelerate back up to speed again.23

Again revisiting Trip G in the chart above, let’s imagine that over the course of that 50 mile trip, you encounter 25 traffic lights (or one every two miles), each with the potential for a typical 30-45 second wait time. This means the possible time lost at red lights is anywhere between 12.5 to 18.75 minutes. Now, you’ll face these delays regardless of how fast you travel in between the lights. In the Trip G example, speeding will, at best, counteract the losses at red lights, and also at worst, those red lights will reduce your 12 minute savings as a result of about 6 minutes over a 50 mile trip that’s already overtaking an hour.2425262728…30

Although you may make the argument that a 50 mile trip would occur mostly in the freeway, that doesn’t help us. As we established earlier, speeding doesn’t help freeway driving nearly as much. The difference between Trip G (at 45 mph) and Trip I (at 65 mph) above is a six minute savings loss. Even without the lights, you still lost half your savings. And let’s be real, over a 50 mile trip, it’s still pretty likely you’re going to encounter a couple (dozen) traffic lights along the way.

To put all of these savings of some minutes into perspective, let’s assume the standard speeding ticket cost is $150. To ensure six minutes of your time for you to be worth $150, you would have to make $1,500/hour or about $3,000,000 each year.313233

, the amount of red lights you’ll encounter, the length of time you’ll spend each and every, and the density of traffic will vary widely by your area.Now and obviously In many cities, you could potentially travel a complete 50 miles without encountering a single traffic light. In others, you’ll pass through 25 signals every two miles. However, this only emphasizes the point: your speed is only one from the factors that you’ll encounter while driving and many of the things that determine how long your trip takes are away from your control.

There Are a Few Things That Can Help

We can easily more or less conclude that speeding only helps you save a marginal amount of time, if it saves any at all. However, there are still a number of things you can do to operate more efficiently that actually helps and doesn’t risk getting in trouble with law enforcement or an accident:

Plan out multi-stop trips efficiently: If you’re planning to go to more than one location, the best thing you can do is to plan the most efficient route before you leave. Even some extra forethought can prevent backtracking, which will save far more time than speeding., though there’s no perfect way to do this and in fact, here is the subject of a notable logistics problem)

Avoid left turns: While you’re preparing your route, or if you simply come across the decision while you’re out, choosing a right turn instead of a left one will not just save time, but gas also. If you’re choosing between two gas stations on opposite sides of the road, the one in the right is going to take less time to reach., although this doesn’t mean you will need to ban left turns entirely in favor of ridiculous right turn schemes

Prefer roundabouts when available: In the rare event you could choose between a route containing a four-way stop and a roundabout, the roundabout will be a more efficient system of coordinating traffic, although roundabout-style intersections may not be quite typical in the United States. Other things being equal, obviously.343536

Obviously, the best way to buy your destination sooner is to leave earlier. That advice might be impractical and trite at times-everyone runs late occasionally-but leaving your house ten minutes earlier is a much more reliable way to save time and comes with considerably fewer risks.