Safely Speaking

Choose to Be Safe Driver

Recently, the cause of Tiger Woods’ catastrophic motor vehicle crash was released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The 45-year-old golfer was driving 84-87 miles per hour on a downhill stretch of a road outside Los Angeles in an area with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour; a stretch of road known for wrecks and drivers hitting speeds so high that there is an emergency exit for runaway vehicles just beyond where Woods crashed. 

The sheriff’s department said there was no evidence the golfer braked through the wreck and believed he inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake.  The unfamiliar SUV he was driving was loaned to him by the tournament he was hosting.

Speeding is huge problem on our roads, one that makes every driver mistake more dangerous. Speed limits are meant to protect road users by keeping traffic to a safe speed for the conditions, but many drivers exceed them.

According to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts, speeding is a major factor in traffic deaths and injuries. On average, speed was a factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities in 2019; killing 9,478 people, or an average of 25 people per day.

Men in all age brackets accounted for most speed-related crashes. Male drivers 16–20-year-olds accounted for 30% of those crashes. Men ages 45-54 accounted for 15% of those crashes. 

Speeding becomes an increasingly important factor for drivers in fatal crashes as roadway surface conditions deteriorate. In 2019, speeding was a fatal factor for:

  • 16% of drivers on dry roads
  • 19% on wet roads
  • 39% of roads with snow or slush
  • 40% on roads with moving or standing water
  • 41% on roads with mud, dirt, or gravel
  • 43% on roads with ice or frost

One of the reasons a driver may be cited by police for speeding is for “driving too fast for conditions.” While driving at the posted speed limit on a dry road may be considered safe, driving at that same speed when the road is wet or covered with snow or ice may be considered unsafe or “too fast for conditions.”

Why is speed so dangerous? There are several reasons. As speeds increase, drivers have less time to perceive hazards and   reaction times decrease. Human error goes up when reactions times are reduced.  Additionally, the force of the crash also accelerates, meaning the forces on the human body, even one that is properly buckled-up can become so severe as to be life-threatening.

Speeding becomes a habit for many people when they are young. Teenagers fail to recognize the risks and potential hazards, but often get lucky and think it’s because they’re a good driver, so there’s no reason to worry about driving over the speed limit. Teaching young drivers from an early age about the most frequent driving behaviors that can lead to a crash is essential. The Oklahoma Safety Council offers the National Safety Council’s Alive at 25 program, which is available at no cost, thanks to a grant from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. We need to go beyond basic driver’s education and teach critical defensive driving techniques to young drivers once they have received their license and feel confident and “experienced”. Providing this additional training is a must in order to make our nation’s highways safer now and in the future.

And it’s never to late to change your driving behaviors. Drivers of any age can take the National Safety Council’s 6-hour Defensive Drivers Course, which is a State-approved program that can be used for insurance reduction or point removal/ticket dismissal. You will learn to recognize the need for and benefits of defensive driving, and that defensive driving involves both legal and personal responsibility. You will be able to identify risky driving attitudes and behaviors, determine if a collision was preventable, as well as become familiar with the DDC Collision Prevention Formula.

Safe driving is a choice. Get the skills and knowledge you need to make good choices behind the wheel and to hone your safe driving skills.

For more information on Alive at 25, visit our website at:

For more on our Defensive Driving Course, visit our website at:


About the Author

With 30 years of experience as a safety professional and a degree in Emergency Management, Betsey Kulakowski is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Safety Council. Betsey also serves as the co-chair for the OKC Chapter of Women in Safety Excellence (WISE), a special interest group of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).