Psychology Behind the Wheel: Why Do We Speed? Most states are tough on drunken drivers, but speeders actually cause the most deadly car crashes. Yet, even when they're caught, many speeders get off easy. Guests discuss the psychology behind the desire to speed and why drivers think nothing of going above the limit.
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Psychology Behind the Wheel: Why Do We Speed?

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We all drive to fast from time, and more than a few of you may be speeding right now. We also know that it's dangerous. Going too fast make accidents more likely, and more likely to cause injuries and death. Yet our legislators and our cops treat it far less seriously than drunk driving, and there are even Web sites that collect excuses to use in the event that you do get pullover. And to be honest, some of them are pretty funny.

Most people don't think twice about going five to 10 miles over the speed limit, and there will be plenty more who zoom right past them. Why? We'll talk with some experts about the danger of speeding; why it's so hard to police it and what might work. And we want to ask you, why do we love to drive so fast?

Our number is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Email us - talk@npr.org. There's also a conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Later on the program, our monthly visit with the Motley Fool. If you have questions about investing in the stock market, you can email those to us now - talk@npr.org.

But first our love affair with speed, and we begin with Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii and co-author of the book "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving." He joins us from his home in Kailua, Hawaii.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Professor LEON JAMES (Psychology, University of Hawaii; Co-author, "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving"): Thank you and aloha to everybody from Hawaii.

CONAN: Oh we hate you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You might want to think that added danger would dissuade people from driving fast. Is danger in fact, part of the reason that we speed?

Prof. JAMES: Well, the reason that we - that we speed is because we don't call it speeding. I think it - we need to remember this that the word speeding is a kind of a buzzword and what it exactly mean? Does it mean breaking the speed limit? Sometimes that's what it means. But usually people mean just going over the speed limit by 20, 25 miles per hour. So that's the first thing we need to determine is what is speeding.

CONAN: You're talking as a psychologist, and not as a policeman here?

Prof. JAMES: That's right, because as far as the law enforcement is concern, speeding is breaking the speed limit.

CONAN: Yet, nobody expects to get it a ticket if they're going 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

Prof. JAMES: I think it depends, locally for instance, here in Hawaii, the law enforcement say we give you a ticket if you hit five above the limit. Sometimes, they say well, officially it's right the limit. So, you know, you can't really go over - the policies differ. But the point is, it has to do with radar. In other words, they have to prove that you went over a certain limit; and then the judge has to approve it, and few judges approve breaking the speed limit by less than five.

CONAN: Right because there's a margin of error, I guess, or at least they assume there's a margin of error whether there is one or not. But nevertheless, do we learn to speed?

Prof. JAMES: Yes. We are taught to speed by our culture. In other words, speeding is a habit so it's a way of - the way we usually feel ourselves. So in other words, we're always trying to do something as fast as we can, but not always - it's only when we are in that mode of doing something fast.

CONAN: Of doing something fast; and there's also the feeling that if you get on the highway and everybody is driving at 70 miles an hour, well, you probably should to.

Prof. JAMES: Well, you know, I've looked at a lot of literature available on the Web, if you Google this idea, a desire, a notion of speeding - and there's a lot of controversy. It's a controversial issue. A lot of engineers disagree. And in fact, I saw a government report that - federal government (unintelligible) - by - which shows that the majority of localities in the country set their speed limits too low according to the federal government recommendations - guidelines.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners involved in this conversation. 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Email us - talk@npr.org.

Why do we love to speed? Our guest is Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii. And let's begin now with Siegel(ph). Siegel is calling from Cincinnati, Ohio.

SIEGEL (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

SIEGEL: I'm a traveling salesman. And let me say I love your show before even I start. I listen to it all the time when driving.

CONAN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: But I mostly speed because I drive about 500 to 700 miles a week, and I don't really have the time for someone going 60 miles in the fast lane, when I'm trying to get to Louisville or Lexington or Columbus. So a lot of times it's just a matter - not a life and death thing, but I just have places to be in. I go probably 15 miles over the speed limit, generally.

CONAN: And so you think, you know, that's as you say if people are driving the speed limit, what's actually the limit, they just get in the way?

SIEGEL: Yes. But I do have to say I think it's different. I really think there should be some sort of test about how fast you can go and whether or not you can drive in the fast lane or not. I love - we should have - in my state, we don't have speed lanes only for like commuters and that sort of thing. That would be a great thing here because a lot of times you get people just sort of hanging out in the fast lane, because they're waiting for their turn, which is going to be three miles down the road.

CONAN: Yeah. There's also, I assume, you'd be much too careful to drive drunk. I assume you got your seatbelt clicked.

SIEGEL: Oh, of course.

CONAN: And you would still say 15 miles an hour over the speed limit is - that's it's harmless.

SIEGEL: It's harmless for me to drive that speed, yes.

CONAN: And there we get to I suspect - Professor James, I suspect we get to a reason. It's harmless for me. It's not going to happen to me.

SIEGEL: Right.

Prof. JAMES: Yes, well, you see, that's what I said before. To most people what they're doing - driving over the speed limit - is not necessarily speeding. They have realized, legally, they're breaking the speed limit, but as far as traffic safety is concern, going 15 or 20 miles above the speed limit doesn't mean necessarily that they are less safe.

CONAN: Siegel, thanks very much. I hope you drive safely.

SIEGEL: Thank you, I do.

CONAN: Good luck to you.

SIEGEL: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's see we can get to - this is Jeff(ph). Jeff is with us from Nashville, Tennessee.

JEFF (Caller): Yes.

CONAN: Go ahead, Jeff.

JEFF: I drive too fast so I could get to my gigs on time. I'm a traveling musician.

CONAN: And the little bit of added safety - it might be worth your life or the life of somebody else to leave a few minutes early. That's not worth it?

JEFF: Well, a lot of times - I go to - I go west from Nashville quite a bit, and when I get to Memphis, depending on the traffic there, sometimes I can get push-back 30 or 40 minutes and I'm late. Then, I got to put the hammer down.

CONAN: And how fast do you go?

JEFF: Sometimes I get up to 90…

CONAN: Ninety?

JEFF: …on the interstate, and I guess I'm going 20 miles over the speed limit, but I try not to go any faster than that. I mean…

CONAN: And have you ever gotten a ticket?

JEFF: Not going to a gig. Normally, I get tickets, you know, close to my house, on the way - to down the music row for a studio session or something, but never on the interstate. I'm scared to go too slow on the interstate because of the trucks, too. I'm wondering if there's any data on that as far as going too slow. Is that more dangerous?

CONAN: Well, we'll talk about that a little bit later. Jeff, are you driving now?

JEFF: I am.

CONAN: And how fast are you driving?

JEFF: Well, I'm in town so I'm only - I'm going the speed limit today.

CONAN: Congratulations.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JEFF: Yeah.

CONAN: Jeff, thanks very much for the call.

JEFF: Thank you.

CONAN: And, Professor James, I guess everybody has, you know, an excuse. I'm late. It's important for me to get somewhere.

Mr. JAMES: Yes. It goes back to the idea that people don't consider that speeding or they don't consider that something unsafe. So most people take risks when they are driving and this is true of any activity. So the risks we are taking tends to be very consistent. So it depends slightly on the situation but when we're in a hurry and we decide that it's safe to break the speed limit by 20 then we go ahead and do it.

CONAN: Well, joining us now is Judy Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. She's with us here in studio 3A in Washington. Nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. JUDITH STONE (President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Speeding, it's treated as if - well - it's harmless.

Mr. STONE: It is treated like it's harmless and that's a big problem in our society. I really believe that we are a nation in denial. There are three major traffic safety issues - behaviors more or less. One is drunk driving; the other is not wearing your seatbelt; and of course, speeding. But most people don't view it that way, as we have witnessed today from your callers.

CONAN: And…

Mr. STONE: And it really can be a huge safety problem.

CONAN: And just to get some idea, there are approximately what, 40,000 Americans killed every year on the highway.

Ms. STONE: There are over 40,000 - that's 40 - over 43,000.

CONAN: And how many of those are attributable to driving too fast?

Ms. STONE: Well, about 30 percent of all fatal crashes are attributable to some speed involvement. And that's about a thousand people being killed a month. That's a huge number, I mean, that's really - those are people. You know, individual of people who are being killed and not just statistics. So we - we have a - it's vexing problem because we really have a hard time explaining this to people and getting people to understand that they are really at risk out there if they are speeding. And the faster you go, the more at risk you are.

CONAN: Yet, it seems also that we have a problem explaining this to our state legislators and our policing authorities who do not treat it as seriously -certainly not as drunk driving - and I guess that, in a way, that's a step in the right direction because they're treating drunk driving much more seriously, but even, you know, the seatbelts clicked.

Ms. STONE: Right. You know, I do think it's been a problem for a quite a long time. It isn't just related to the speed limit issues. I remember back in the 1980s when the government had ads on television for - the dummies. You remember the crash dummies then?

CONAN: Crash test dummies, sure.

Ms. STONE: We used to say at that time that it's, you know, you shouldn't drink and drive, obviously, and you're a dummy if you don't wear your seatbelt. But it's perfectly okay to speed. I mean, that's the message that was coming out in general. And I don't think that's changed. I mean, I think we're concerned about it more, but I don't think that the message has really gotten through.

CONAN: And Professor James, just to turn back to you, this message seems to come to us from a lot of places, from the media, from car ads, from our parents.

Prof. JAMES: Yes. I think, also, let's face it. The message is ambiguous also because speed is something that has a very positive value in our society and if you look at car commercials, you can see the emphasis placed on going fast. So - in a lot of movies and lyric songs, children are exposed to that. So it is the fact that we are culturally trained to have this relationship with speeding. And, of course, it's a traffic safety problem as well.

CONAN: And we shouldn't talk about it as if it is just an interstate highway problem too. Here's an email we got Keith in San Rafael, California. Suburban and neighborhood speeding becoming more of a problem as our suburbs grow. Each community increasingly becomes less of a destination and more of a throughway to get another community or somewhere else, so people just drive through at greater speed without concern for the people that live there. And I know statistics, Judy Stone will back this up. The side roads are just as dangerous, if not more so.

Ms. STONE: That's true. And it also brings that down to the individual level. If it's in my neighborhood, and it's happening there, it's a problem.

CONAN: I'm going to get those road bumps installed.

Ms. STONE: Yeah. And so we all made enforcement as a really good solution to that and - so we think that that's growing and those are cameras and they're very often placed in local areas and cities and they've been working.

CONAN: And yet people treat them sometimes as if this is an infringement on their right to speed.

Ms. STONE: Oh sure. They're controversial in some camps, but the statistics are unbelievably positive.

CONAN: Well, stay with - stay with us, Judy Stone. Also still with us, Leon James, professor of psychology. We're talking about why we love to speed even though we all know how dangerous it can be.

Up next, we'll find out exactly what happens in a high-speed crash and what can be done to prevent it. Call and tell us why it's so hard to stop driving fast. 800-989-8255, 808-989-TALK. You can also zap us an email, talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from npr.news.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

There's still time to email us with investment question for the Motley Fool. That address is talk@npr.org. Just put Motley Fool in the subject line. David Gardner joins us a bit later.

Right now, we're talking about our love affair with speeding and why we love to drive fast even though we hear all the time how dangerous it can be. We'll talk more about the science of speeding in just a bit.

And we want to ask you why do you like to drive fast? 800-989-8255, email us, talk@npr.org. You can also read what other listeners have to say at our blog, that's at npr.org/blogofthenation. You'll be interested to hear from some traffic officers as well. If you enforce the law on the highways or the streets, give us a call, 800-989-8255.

Our guests are Leo James, professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, co-author of "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving." Also with us, Judy Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

I want to read this email we got from Shawn(ph) in Cincinnati. I'm convinced that many young men start getting into the habit of speeding because a surprising number of young women finds speeding in a car exciting, even arousing. What could be done to alter this mindset for many young people and discourage them from testing the limits of driving ever faster and faster? And first of all, Judy Stone, I think the statistic show that if you're speeding, it's likely, statistically, you're a young male.

Ms. STONE: That's right. That's true. The statistics do show that and I think that they're also - young males are also - who are speeders are also more likely to have had previous speeding convictions or other kinds of convictions as well. So they are what we call over represented.

CONAN: And let me turn to you, Professor James, is Shawn's analysis correct that young men may drive fast because a lot of young women find it arousing?

Prof. JAMES: Well, there is a habit - there is a socialization process going on during adolescence where they influence each other a lot. And apparently, yes, just like many other things, speeding is one of the things, and it's supposed to do that. And so if something is supposed to do that, they kind of feel that it does. So that may be going on.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Scott, Scott with us from Alameda in California.

SCOTT (Caller): Yeah, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

SCOTT: I would like to back up Keith in his comment about speeding through the neighborhoods. I'm on the record as being a speeder on the highway, but in the neighborhoods, on the surface streets, I slow down with the speed limit because I'm a cyclist and I'm - like to respect people in their neighborhoods. But I do speed on the highways. A lot of times the speed limit seems to be just completely arbitrary. I mean, there are speed limits in California from 75 to 55 and to me, it's just random where they decide to make the speed limits what they are.

The most unsafe drivers that I see on the road, a lot of times, are the officers themselves. Speeding dramatically for no reason, erratic lane changes, all that stuff. But, all that said, I have been pulled over and talked my way out of tickets, and the way that I do that, most of the time, is by admitting to the officer when he walks up - thank you for pulling me over, I understand that I was speeding, and I appreciate your taking the time to stop me and slow me down.

CONAN: So you use the - the confessional approach?

SCOTT: Well, it's confessional, but also what I notice is that when they do say, you know, yes, I stopped you for speeding and I'm going to just let you go with a warning, I do slow down for days.

CONAN: Aha.

SCOTT: For days. Also, if I get the ticket, typically, I'm back at full speed as soon as I get away from the officer.

CONAN: Really?

SCOTT: Yeah.

CONAN: We have a list of excuses that we pulled from the Web. I just wanted to see if you'd ever tried any of these. My dog's at the pound about to get zapped.

SCOTT: Yes.

CONAN: You've used that?

SCOTT: Yes.

CONAN: Did it work?

SCOTT: Yes.

CONAN: Epileptic aunt needs these pills as soon as possible.

SCOTT: No. Taking my dog for emergency surgery.

CONAN: And oh, was the dog cooperating by moaning?

SCOTT: The dog was in the back in serious sickness.

CONAN: Just lost my job, show goodbye card from co-workers, plead for sympathy.

SCOTT: No.

CONAN: Carry water bottle, dump water on lap, tell cop you have bladder problems.

SCOTT: No.

CONAN: No?

SCOTT: Wife is ovulating.

CONAN: You've tried that?

SCOTT: Yeah and it worked.

CONAN: Ah.

SCOTT: I got an escort for several blocks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Maybe we ought to have psychologists on to talk to us about the cops about why they are so gullible with these excuses?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Scott, thanks very much. Drive carefully, okay?

SCOTT: Thank you.

CONAN: I appreciate it. We're laughing because those are pretty funny, Professor James. Yet, at the same time, the behavior is interesting.

Prof. JAMES: Yes. And it proves that all of us understand that speeding is not something we ought to be doing, but that under certain circumstances, it's excusable. And that's why people, when they face the officer, they are able to negotiate because we are humans and we understand that under certain circumstances, we can break the speed limit for that reason. It's just that is that understanding the background.

CONAN: Also with us here in Studio 3A is Richard Retting. He's senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, and he knows all about the dangers of speeding. And thanks very much for coming in.

Mr. RICHARD RETTING (Senior Transportation Engineer, Insurance Institute of Highway Safety): Good afternoon.

CONAN: What effect does additional speed have on a collision?

Mr. RETTING: Speed is very important because it influences the risk of crashes and crash injuries in three basic ways. Speed increases the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver detects an emergency to the time the driver reacts. So we see something, we have to take action. That takes time - takes time to take the foot off of the gas, time to hit the break. The distance we travel increases with higher speeds.

CONAN: And it takes longer to slow down.

Mr. RETTING: It takes longer to take - the distance we travel - the time is fixed.

CONAN: Right.

Mr. RETTING: It takes a certain amount of time to react. So the distance we travel goes up with higher speeds. Speed also increases the distance needed to stop a vehicle once emergency is detected. So that once the foot is on the break, stopping distance increases with higher speeds.

And finally, it's important to keep in mind that the energy in a crash increases at higher speeds. Higher impacts are associated with more energy. If you recall from your high school days…

CONAN: Sure.

Mr. RETTING: …the formula E equals M-C squared, this is a good case study to use that physics formula.

CONAN: Speed of light's concerned on here?

Mr. RETTING: When a - when an impact speed increases say, from 40 mile per hour to 60 miles per hour, which is a 50 percent impact, it increases in the impact speed. The amount of energy that needs to be managed increases by 125 percent. It's disproportionate and exponential to the increase in the actual travel speed.

CONAN: Yet we have all these wonderful safety devices now in modern cars, crumple zones, of course, seatbelts, and air bags. Aren't they effective?

Mr. RETTING: These devices are highly effective. But we have to keep in mind, that there are limits to the amount of the crash energy that can be managed by vehicles. These devices do an extraordinary job in protecting vehicle occupants under a range of crash conditions that are typically encountered. When crash forces exceed the limits of those devices, the increased risk of fatalities and serious injuries is evident.

CONAN: Professor James, let me ask you a question. All those safety devices, do they make us more or less likely to drive fast?

Mr. JAMES: Actually, there is an interesting effect. It's called target risk. In other words, when we speed or do other maneuvers, the driver is in control of how much risk he or she is willing to take at that particular time. And it tends to be very, very consistent, so some drivers take a larger risk and some drivers, a smaller risk. But under certain conditions, all drivers will take certain risks.

So when we know that these - when of these safety devices have been installed, like safety belt and all these other things - when we realize that we have a better chance of getting away with it, then we start pushing the limit a little bit further in order to maintain that target risk. So we're always driving the same level of risk and if you make it safer for us to drive, then we're going to push that risk higher.

CONAN: And let me get back to you, Richard Retting. And then what does work as a deterrent? Obviously, the sign of a - the sight of a police car might work.

Mr. RETTING: Yes. Well, you know. One - let me respond to is we heard some callers earlier today who I would refer to as habitual speeders.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. RETTING: And one of the problems we encounter in a highway safety field is a large problem, where drivers who simply overestimate their own driving abilities and underestimate the risks that they cause to themselves and others by speeding. And while it may seem trivial and may seem even humorous at times - these excuses and so on - the fact is that every week, 250 people die in this country from speeding and speeding-related crashes.

So this is a persistent problem and I'm sure that the majority of drivers in those crashes did not view their speeding as being risky and perhaps, thought it was harmless. So we have to go back to the fact that we have a cultural problem in this country with drivers who miss the concept of connecting the dots. Speeding is the potential contributing factor…

CONAN: It's a life and death situation.

Mr. RETTING: Absolutely.

CONAN: Yeah. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And this is Donald. Donald with us - calling us from the Autobahn in Germany.

DONALD (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

DONALD: Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

DONALD: Up until I got to my exit, I was cruising at 100 miles an hour down the Autobahn here in Germany. And I was passing some people, but I was also being passed by others moving faster than I was. I think that the reason people speed in the States is that with the uniform speed limits, people tend to be driving almost in formation and there's no sense of making progress. And so here in Germany - I'm with the U.S. forces.

CONAN: Right.

DONALD: I have, of course, learned how to drive over here in Europe and we don't have all speed limits everywhere on the Autobahn, and so I do feel like I'm making progress when I'm moving past others.

CONAN: I should hope you're making progress at a hundred miles an hour. But I wonder, Richard Retting, Autobahn, obviously, there's a tolerable safety limit and people do drive much faster than they do in this country.

Mr. RETTING: And that higher speed comes with a price. We have seen in this country where we have a series of natural experiments over decades with increasing and lowering speed limits. I have seen a very clear relationship between the level at which we set speed limits and the rate at which fatal crashes occur.

Every time there's been an increase in national speed limits, we have seen an increase in fatalities. And not a small increase - 15, 20 percent increases on the fatal crashes - the fatality rate, which translates into hundreds of fatalities a year.

In Germany, many of the sections of the Autobahn do have speed limits where there had been crash problems. And while we can't directly compare the Autobahn with the U.S. interstate system, it's clear that where speed limits changed, where there in limits and their increase, there are more fatal crashes, more serious crashes occur.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And let me ask you, Professor James, about the point that Donald was making about the psychological point. American drivers, he said, tend to drive in packs, all at the same speed. Well as on the Autobahn in Germany, there's a different culture and he feels as if he's making progress.

Prof. JAMES: Yes. I think you need to take the prospective of the vast majority of drivers, and that is, if you look at what tickets are given out, hundreds and hundreds - millions of tickets are probably given out every year in this country. And the vast majority of those tickets, I would predict, has to do with breaking the speed limit by less than 20 miles per hour, by less than 15 miles per hour.

So this is where the controversy comes in, is driving in a pack over, you know, 15 miles over the speed limit where everybody else is doing it, is that unsafe? And there are lots of studies on the Web - if you look at it - by transportation engineers to show that if the person who goes much faster or much slower than this pack, they create a traffic safety hazard, but not the people who are breaking the speed limit and traveling in a pack.

CONAN: We have our own transportation safety engineer here, Richard Retting, is that right?

Mr. RETTING: Well, I'd have to disagree with the professor in characterizing the quality of the literature on the Web. Simply going and doing a Google search, is not the way we do science in this country. With all due respect, there's a scientific process by which we looked at the effect of speed, the effect of speeding.

And it's clear that speed and speeding in higher speeds a go are the more risks drivers take. Whether these speeds occur in packs or they involved individual drivers, speeding is a very significant risk factor.

CONAN: Donald, thanks very much for the call.

DONALD: Thank you.

CONAN: I appreciate it. We're talking about speeding and why we love it so. Our guests are Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii; Judy Stone, the president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; and Richard Retting, a senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And here's an email we have from Deesa(ph), I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly, in Detroit. Why speed? Because you're bullied off the road if you don't. I feel very pressured to keep up with the pace of traffic, especially during rush hour. It said, the I-94 freeway is one of the fastest strips of road in the nation. I can tell you, many drivers here are proud of that distinction and again, Professor James, bullied off the road if you don't keep up.

Prof. JAMES: Yes, that's an extremely serious situation and, of course, a lot of people feel that way but the majority of people don't. But still it has to do with taking care of both types of drivers. This is why certain people should not be where the pack is going. They should be in the right lane. And every road has its own habits. The drivers maintained those norms. And anybody who's breaking those norms is actually creating a safety hazard. So if you can't keep up with the pack, you're supposed to stay out on their way.

CONAN: All right. Let's go to Bennett(ph). Bennett's in on Miami on I-95.

BENNETT (Caller): Yes, hi. And, in fact while I was on hold, I just saw a couple of ambulances that shoot past in front of me, so it's kind of scary, being on the radio right now.

CONAN: Aha. Well, be very careful.

BENNETT: Thank you, but yeah. I have a comment that there are some people who are chronic speeders and who likes speeding.

CONAN: Yes, I think you're probably right.

BENNETT: Right, versus some people who, you know, and I can pick myself in the second group, who speed once in a while because you realize the roads are empty at 6:30 in the morning, and you're down Alligator Alley, and it should be okay.

CONAN: So situational speeders and chronic speeders is…

BENNETT: Right. One of my friends, I mean, we were at - over at dinner at their house and he was boasting how he speeds all the time. And I'm looking at his three kids, and I'm rolling my eyes. I'm like oh my God, what's he doing?

CONAN: Judy Stone, is he right? Are there two kinds of speeders?

Ms. STONE: Well, I know there are lots of different kinds of speeders. And I think that - and I don't know what the names of these groups of speeders are but I would like to say one thing about the culture of speeding. And that is that, you may remember that back in the early days, some of you, if you're old enough to remember that - you know, people used to joke about drunk driving.

And I don't mean to say that we should never joke. Obviously, it's okay once in a while. But I think that one of the things that we need in this country to make change and to change people thinking is for us to have an organization like Mothers Against Drunk Driving who have done an excellent job of educating people about the dangers of drunk driving.

And we don't have that in this country. There's really nothing like that - of people who have actually been involved in crashes and who understand the effects of that for their entire life - to lose somebody in your family because they were going too fast or somebody else is going too fast. And I think that these are important, you know, positive steps that we could take.

CONAN: Here's an email we got from Sebastian in Beaufort, South Carolina. I used to be a chronic speeder between 1990 to '97. I got close to three dozen tickets. In 1997, I became a parent, and I changed my driving pattern dramatically. Now my life is exponentially more precious.

I have not received a single ticket in the past 10 years. So there's other things we can do, perhaps, to change our behaviors. But a very serious problem, those of you listening and driving, look at the speedometer, be careful please.

I'd like to thank our guests. Richard Retting is a senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, here with us on studio 3A. Thanks very much.

Mr. RETTING: Thank you.

CONAN: We just heard a minute ago from Judy Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Thank you for coming in.

Ms. STONE: Thank you.

CONAN: And, Professor James, thank you for your time today.

Prof. JAMES: Thank you.

CONAN: Leon James is a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, co-author of the book, "Road Rage And Aggressive Driving." Coming up, Apple is up, the stock market is down, gourmet groceries crossed the Atlantic. David Garner tell us what it all means to investors like us and how to avoid Wall Street summer slump.

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