Why do most people think it's cool to exceed the speed limit?

It’s like how smoking used to be portrayed as cool in advertisements until tobacco advertisements were banned. So people would smoke because they thought it made them look cool which in turn just left them with major health problems.

Here if you go the speed limit you will usually be passed by every other car, especially on the highways. You’re not saving that much time and if you’re always running late then what does that say. No matter what the speed limit is, people always exceed it.

You risk getting a citation, you risk liability of any accident you’re involved in and that puts fault on you.

To me it’s overrated like, you’re not that cool because you speed past everyone or anyone who is not exceeding the speed limit. No one is impressed by it, like oh look at how fast that car is going, they’re such a cool person.

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Speaking as someone who typically drives ~73 mph on expressways with a 65 mph speed limit, and who has driven accident-free for the past 49 years, I don’t exceed the speed limit because I think that it is “cool”. I do it because I need to get where I am going as expeditiously as possible, and it is obvious that I can do it in safety.

On local roads, I usually drive ~5 mph over the speed limit, and that is mostly because the speed limits on most of the roads in this area are set unnaturally low. When driving through farm country, on a level road with no crossroads and few houses, it is actually pretty bizarre that the speed limit is 30 mph.
I can–and do–drive ~35-38 mph on these roads, and I would probably drive a bit faster if not for the occasional hidden radar trap.

In my younger days, I was involved in two accidents. One was the result of being distracted in congested stop & go traffic, and the other was because I was driving a bit too fast (about 30 mph) during a snow storm.

I know of people who drive like snails, and yet their cars look like they have been through a demolition derby as a result of multiple fender benders. By contrast, I have driven for almost 5 decades without as much as a scratch on my car, and it has been over 30 years since I received a traffic citation, and that was for making an illegal left turn–NOT for speeding.

When you drive on an expressway, the most important factor (aside from driver distraction) in accident avoidance is the speed differential between your car and the majority of others on the road. If most of the traffic is exceeding the speed limit, driving at–or under–the speed limit actually puts you at more risk because you are the outlier.

A few months ago, I encountered an elderly man driving his new-ish Bentley Continental in the center lane of I-287 at ~55 mph, while 70+ mph traffic roared around him on both sides. He was the problem, and while I hope that his extremely expensive car (and he) escaped unscathed, he was actually putting himself in danger by driving the way that he did.

The key is to drive in a way that allows you to at least keep-up with the flow of traffic, and nowadays that almost always means exceeding the speed limit. Despite usually exceeding the speed limit, I have been accident-free for close to 5 decades, so I think it is pretty clear that I am not being reckless.


There are certain human characteristics that you will find in a large population of people. Not everyone has all these characteristics, and some have them in small doses, but there are some that have these in a abundance.

There are those who don’t like to follow rules, and breaking small rules - like speeding - gives them a sense of individualism.

Then there are those who follow the pack and are suspicious - even afraid - of those that don’t.

I could go on, but you get the point.


Both @VDCdriver and @CapriRacer make very valid, and different, points. Let me toss in a 3rd thought.

The national highway system used to have speed limits of 70 mph set by the individual states. This was back in the 1960’s when some cars - a VW Vanagon couldn’t reach 60 mph. These cars had no overdrive, skinny tires and very poor brakes but were quite comfortable at 70 mph. Enforcement was sparse but so was traffic.

Fast forward to the 55 mph speed limit, forced upon every state in the name of fuel conservation, in the 1970’s. Cars had progressed to the point where disk brakes (at least in the front) were standard, the tire wizards had given us FAR better tires - radials - and cars capable of an easy 120 mph. Travel across states like Kansas or Texas or even Ohio was excruciatingly painful. Speeding increased because cars were better and a 55 mph limit on a straight road with 5 miles of visibility was irresponsibly slow. But enforcement increased. Speedometers were forced to read no more than 85 mph. Enter the radar detector. Violating the speed limit laws became our own little defiance of government overreach.

That carries forward to today. Cars are FAR better than in 1980. Tires are FAR better. Brakes are FAR better. Drivers are comfortable running 80 mph. Police have given up trying to ticket anyone going less than 10 mph over the limit (my state, and many more) because we ALL are going 79 mph with a 70 (shades of the past!!) limit. Heck, the police in my state run the highways at about 77 mph if they aren’t trying to sneak on a speeder.

We set the expectation that everybody speeds way back in the 80’s and you can’t get that genie back in the bottle.


I drive at between 70 and 75 because it’s SAFER. When every other car on the road is doing 80+ - at 65 you’re risking your life and everyone around you. When I visit family in Central NY where people are more sane…I drive around the speed limit. But here in the Boston area…you’re much safer driving closer to the prevailing speed limit. If you don’t have the driving skills to drive that speed, then you should stay off the road, or drive during rush hour where speeds hover around 30.


The counter to that is that you’re right, of course, but drivers are FAR worse. Back then all we had to worry about on a mass scale was drunk drivers, and they’re a relatively minuscule percentage of the total driving population. Now we have drivers whose hands are apparently surgically attached to their phones. 96% of all Americans own a cell phone. Most of those are smart phones. And a vast number of those smart phone owners do stupid things with them like playing with them in traffic.

An 80mph speed limit at this point would just make the inevitable collisions do more damage, and that’s coming from someone who thinks 80 should be cruising speed for many vehicles.

I support higher speed limits, but I also more strongly support higher requirements for getting and keeping a driver’s license. Drivers should be better trained, and then when they’re caught doing stupid things, they should be punished more. Instead we have it entirely backwards. Someone doing 65 in a 55 while completely focused on driving gets pulled over, and while the cop is writing the ticket 300 cars go by and at least half of them are driven by people staring at their phones.


Going 8 over on our 500 mile trek 2 or 4 times a year gets us there about an hour earlier, not an ego thing, and I am still getting passed by people, and quite often I am just keeping up with the flow of traffic.


Just last week I saw a guy doing 85 in the fast lane. Traffic was coming up on him like he was standing still, yet he refused to move over. Here’s where it gets good. He was driving an older Previa van with a space saver donut on it!

When I saw that bicycle sized tire on there, bright yellow wheel, I moved over two lanes and hung way back. He went more than 20 miles like that before I took my exit. Talk about pushing your luck (and endangering others at the same time).


+1 to that comment. I chose not to go there but I agree with everything in your post!

I’d almost consider raising the speed limits so that people would be forced to pay more attention. Running 125 mph plus on the German Autobahn certain kept my attention.


I’ll just say that in the 60’s in Minnesota, when the interstates were built, the speed limit was 70. On the two lane highways, the day limit was 65 and the night limit was 55. Seemed reasonable. Then supposedly to save gas, the same roads had a limit of 55 all the time. Driving 55 on a rural four lane interstate for a 120 mile commute made a mockery of the laws. No one could do it day after day. Not a matter of being “cool” just a matter of necessity and common sense. Laws that are not supported by the majority of people are not enforceable.


My family lives just off a major county road that used to have a 50mph speed limit, now 40mph. Feels like you’re crawling along for that mile although it’s much easier to turn onto our street when traffic right behind isn’t doing 70+.

Driving the speed limit in states with wide open spaces can be an unsafe practice IMO. Mile after hundreds of miles of empty nothingness can make the mind start wandering from sheer boredom.

Crossing Wyoming, the OK Panhandle, West Texas, or Barstow, CA to Needles, Ca for example. It’s best to bump the speed up and get it over with.


Fortunately, Oregon has 2 speeds… 65 for traffic and 55 for trucks. Drop a ways behind a semi and cruise at 65, relaxed, or fight with the tailgating jerks in the left, averaging 6 MPH faster… trying to do 85. The 70 mile commute took 5 to 10 minutes longer, but was safer… and I didn’t arrive tense.

It takes one of those thousands to misjudge and traffic is backed up for half to 3 hours.

Drivers tend to want to drive as fast as is comfortable for the road and conditions. When Eisenhower implemented the start of our interstate Highway system, the design speed for the roads was 80 mph. Most Jurisdictions impose lower limits. I am usually travelling at 9 over, not because I think faster is unsafe but because I have no desire to get a ticket and using a radar detector drives me nuts. However when I am going through the Northern part of lower Michigan, where the speed ;imit is 75, I set the cruise control at 81, it just feels right. I keep right when I can and I move over for faster traffic no matter how fast I am driving. that is just common courtesy and if you don’t do that, I don’t think you are a good driver


Speed limits are for untalented, unqualified drivers. I’m better than them, so I can drive faster than they can and be safe about it, too.
-Most everyone on the road, on some subconscious level.


Here’s more than you might want about setting speed limits:

For open roads, the 85th percentile is used as a guideline (the speed that 85% of folks would drive at or below on a given road, if left to their choice). So if the majority of folks on a given road are speeding, that means the speed limit has been set too low.

For most roads I’m in the ‘add 5 mph’ club, but for a few roads with 80 mph limits, I travel at or a bit below the limit.

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That’s the perfect desciption of a dangerous driver. :grin:


70 mph is the highest I have seen for speed limits.

Head to the Black Hills then. South Dakota is 80 but don’t go faster.

Also Indiana has that crazy truck limit of 65 and car limit of 70. I think it is very unsafe. If you attempt to stay in the right lane except for passing like you normally would, you are constantly having to change lanes to go around the line of slower trucks. Of course then in the left lane is a whole row of folks doing the same thing so try to find a spot to merge or hit the brakes behind the truck. It just makes more more lane changes and congestion. It’s the crazyist system, especially with the large number of trucks now.


Y’all need to come down to Texas…

This is on the seldom-used tollroad around Austin, on the east side. A real financial boondoggle, but FAST.

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