The dangers of travelling at excessive speed have been known for hundreds of years.
In 15th century London, it was prohibited to drive a cart more quickly when it was unloaded than when it was loaded or face the risk of a 40-pence fine (about a week’s wages) or time in prison.
Even so, the recorded leading cause of death in London in 1720 was traffic fatalities from “furiously driven” carts and coaches.
When the first electric cars hit the roads in 19th century England, the speed limit was set at four miles per hour.
Historically, Australia had a simple default speed limit of 30 miles per hour (48kmh) in built-up areas, which was progressively increased to 35 miles per hour (56kmh) over three decades by each of the states and territories.
As a part of metrication in 1974, speed limits were converted to kilometres per hour, rounded to the nearest 10kmh, leading to discrepancies in speed limits.
Engineers have been grappling with ways to control traffic and speed for as long as vehicles have existed, with stone traffic calming devices evident in ancient Pompeii roads and a daytime ban on carts and chariots declared in ancient Rome.
Up until the early 20th century, the only real rule of the road in most North American cities was to keep to the right, and it took many decades to reach any consistency in traffic signage.
While rules and customs have evolved over time, the human body has changed very little and the laws of physics are constant.
Even with advances in vehicle technology, your chances of surviving a side collision drop dramatically at speeds over 50 kilometres per hour.
There is only around 10 per cent chance of surviving a head on crash at 70 kilometres per hour, and the danger for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists increases drastically at collisions over 30 kilometres per hour.
It’s a time-tested formula – the faster you travel, the less time you have to react to emergencies or to stop. And if you do crash, the faster you are travelling, even if within the speed limit, the greater the risk of injury.
An alert driver’s reaction time is about 1.5 seconds, so at 60km/h, you’ll travel 25 metres in the time it takes for a message to get from your brain to your foot.
Braking distance is the distance you travel between hitting the brakes and coming to a complete stop. At 60km/h, you’ll travel another 20 metres, assuming the weather, road and vehicle conditions are good.
Slowing down is the single biggest contribution you can make to reduce road trauma on our roads.
Isn’t it time to slow down?