To speed or not to speed

By Brian Mellen

I pulled up to the parking garage on the corner of Sixth and John streets in my car the other day and almost killed a bicyclist. He was pedaling slowly down the sidewalk path in front of the parking lot not even 15 feet from the parking garage entrance. As I came down John Street in my sexy Ford Taurus station wagon I thought to myself, “There’s no way I’m waiting for this guy to cross the parking lot opening before me. I’m going to beat him.” So I quickly sped up, whipped around the corner and cut the bicyclist off. Never mind that I was 10 minutes early for work and there was no real reason for the race. Never mind that at the speed I was going and the distance he was from my car, there wasn’t enough time for me to stop if he suddenly decided to pedal faster or fell off of the bike. I won and that’s all that mattered for the moment. I looked in the rear view mirror only to see a pissed off man hold up one of his glove-covered hands. The gesture was meant for me and I deserved it. Here’s a hint. He wasn’t waving.

Pedestrian safety has been of great public concern for both cities of Champaign-Urbana, the University, the mass transit district and students who walk around campus daily. According to police records from the University, between 2000 and 2004, there were 193 pedestrians and bicyclists hit by motor vehicles.

It’s hard to place blame when an accident occurs. Whose fault or what caused the accident is not always easily identifiable, but one way to help prevent accidents is to slow down on campus and drive the speed limit. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis compiles statistics on motor vehicle accidents in hopes of reducing injuries and fatalities. On the topic of speeding, they say “speeding reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the roadway, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle, and increases the distance a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation.” It’s hard to argue with that.

The analysis also says young males, including those in the college age range, are the most likely to be speeding when involved in an auto accident. That’s not surprising. To guys my age, speeding’s cool, right? Speeding is our right as men to assert our masculinity and make sure everyone knows how awesome we are while driving a pimped out Geo Metro. Girls are getting turned on right now as we speak.

The concept of speeding is absolutely ridiculous in itself. I don’t know how many times someone’s honked and passed me for driving the speed limit on side streets only to get caught at the next traffic light. Driving 20 mph over the limit sure got you to that red light in a hurry. Nice job.

Now I’ve talked to a few friends who’ve tried to justify speeding. One argument I’ve heard is that people who speed usually know what they’re doing and are better overall drivers because it takes skill to speed safely. To a very limited extent that may be true. After all, in 2004 speeding contributed to only 30 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S.

What was the cause of the other 70 percent? I know I’ve seen plenty of completely oblivious drivers. Let’s face it, some people should not be allowed to drive. Could these people be the other major contributing factor? Regardless, people who speed, better drivers or not, still will have less of a reaction time if they come across another driver doing something idiotic. There’s not a whole lot of justification for speeding and a whole lot of reasoning against it.

Speed can creep up on anyone when they drive, but it’s those that speed purposely on campus that will never be able to justify their actions in any rational way. Speeding’s not worth the risk of increasing your chances of accidentally killing another driver, a pedestrian, a bicyclist or yourself. In the words of my humble West Coast origins “chill out” and slow your car down.

Brian Mellen is junior in Communications. Ladies love his Ford Taurus. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at

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