Next time you are in a car driving through a residential neighborhood, try this experiment: glance at your speedometer when you’re in the middle of a block. You will probably find it is pretty easy to reach or top 25 mph.
To someone on foot or in a golf cart, navigating narrow streets and unprotected intersections, it feels like you’re driving too fast. And they’re probably not wrong. As you cruise up to 25 mph (on streets outside a school zone), try to imagine that a golf cart swerves into your lane, or a ball rolls right in front of you with a kid chasing it. Or that someone with an armful of groceries opened a car door without looking, or that a pedestrian in dark clothes stepped into a poorly lit intersection. Would you be able to stop in time? Maybe, maybe not. It would depend on how soon you saw whatever you were about to hit.
Then drop your speed to 20 mph. With that small change, it becomes much easier to halt the momentum of 3,000 pounds of metal.
When you drive through a neighborhood at 20 mph, what reaction do you get from golf carts and pedestrians? Smiles? Polite waves as you stop easily to let them cross in front of you? Like you were a safe, respectful driver who isn’t in a hurry? So why not do that?
Here are four reasons to drive slower:
• Save lives. Driving fast can kill people (including the driver). Two stats: Traffic is the biggest single killer of 12-16 year olds. Surprisingly, at 35 mph you are twice as likely to kill someone you hit as at 30 mph. Faster driving gives you a shorter amount of time to respond to something in your path, and even a fraction of a second can mean the difference between life and death. Drive slower for your safety and that of those around you… especially drive slow around golf carts, runners, cyclists, schools, and neighborhoods with kids on the streets.
• Save time. While you think you are saving time by driving faster, it’s not a lot of time. That small amount of time you’re saving isn’t worth it, considering the other factors on this list. Better yet, start out a few minutes early and you’ll arrive at the same time as someone who drove faster but started later, and you’ll arrive much happier than that person to boot.
• Save your sanity. The above two reasons are very important ones, but the most noticeable difference will be the huge drop in stress levels when you drive. Far from being a crazy experience, driving can actually be a relaxing and pleasant experience now. You are no longer at risk of road rage, because you simply won’t care whether other drivers are going slow or cutting you off.
• Simplify your life. This is related to the one above, but expanded. In addition to saving your stress levels, driving slower can reduce many other complications as well — the headache of crashes and speeding tickets, but also the hectic pace of life. Why rush through life? Slow down and enjoy life more. If you’re always in a hurry to get places, when will you get to your destination and finally be happy? Life is a journey — make it a pleasant one.
OK, assuming that you want to drive slower, here are some of the tips that may work for you:
• Play relaxing music. Whatever you choose, enjoy it, and relax.
• Ignore other drivers. If you care so much about what other drivers are doing that it stresses you out, it may cause you to drive faster to spite other drivers. Just ignore them.
• Leave early. If you speed because you’re running late, make it a habit of getting ready early and leaving early. Now you don’t have to worry about being late, and you can enjoy the ride.
• Brainstorm. Use your drive time for contemplation. Think about your day (either the day to come or the day in review), or think about where you want to go.
• Keep to the right. PLEASE. If you drive slower than the other crazy drivers out there, it’s wise to keep out of their way if possible and keep to the right. It is also the law and it’s good to be polite.
• Enjoy the drive. Most of all, make your drive a pleasant experience — whether that’s through music or contemplation or however you want to enjoy the ride, remember that the ride is just as important as the destination.
Speed limits are in place for a variety of reasons, most importantly safety, your safety and the safety of others. It is simply common sense, for the sake of a few minutes, to avoid a crash and not possibly kill or injure someone.
The men and women of the Lady Lake Police Department are committed to making our roadways as safe as possible. So I would recommend that you resist the urge to exceed the speed limit or drive dangerously because if you do, we will see you before you see us. Traffic tickets are expensive and getting one will cause your insurance premiums to rise.
On behalf of the Lady Lake Police Department, we wish you safe and less stressful, travels.
Chris McKinstry is chief of police in Lady Lake.