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Using Speed Safely

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 29 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Using Speed Safely Accelerating Safely

Many road traffic accidents are caused by drivers failing to use their speed in a safe and considerate manner. Driving too fast and losing control of your vehicle is far too common, especially amongst young and inexperienced drivers, who often think that it is cool to break the speed limit.


Many drivers do not follow the correct braking procedures of applying gentle pressure to the brakes a significant distance before you actually need to come to a stop. See our article on ‘Braking Safely’ for more details on braking.

If stopping fairly suddenly is unavoidable, you may need to perform an emergency stop. This is still highly dangerous to other road users if you have to perform it on busy roads, but in some cases, it may be your only option if you do not have enough time to slow down using the usual braking procedures.


This is one of the main causes of road traffic accidents, particularly when drivers speed up too quickly and lose control. It is important to use common sense judgement when using speed.

You will probably need to accelerate to overtake other vehicles, but once you have done so, you should go back to a sensible speed. Don’t be intimidated into speeding up if the vehicle behind you suddenly increases their speed. It is always tempting to speed up in response, but this is not always the best option, as it may position you too closely to the vehicle in front. You should maintain a sensible stopping distance at all times (so that you can slow down within the distance that there is between the two vehicles), especially in wet or icy conditions.

Slowing Down

Driving very slowly is sometimes as bad as driving well above the speed limit. Drivers who drive well underneath the maximum speed limit can be frustrating for other drivers. This may encourage other drivers to accelerate so that they are right behind you, which means that the recommended stopping distance goes out the window. If you have to react to situations such as traffic lights, pedestrian crossings or road users, the driver behind you may not be able to react in time.

There will be occasions in which you will need to slow down to react safely to a given situation. If the situation allows you to do so, you should do so slowly, as a sudden change in speed can throw other road users, and can be dangerous if it catches them out too much. You should never slow down dramatically on busy roads if you can otherwise avoid it for this reason.

Many of the drivers who are involved in road traffic accidents or are otherwise classed as posing a danger to other road users are often those who do not understand how to use speed safely. ‘Boy racers’ who race along roads and take corners at breakneck speed fall into this category, but you don’t need to be driving well above the speed limit to be using speed in a dangerous manner. Sometimes, driving well below the speed limit can create problems too.

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