People love driving fast.
And yet rationally we know there are multiple reasons to try to drive at 120 kph (75 mph) or even 110 kph (70 mph) on the motorway:
- to save fuel – for internal combustion engine vehicles.
- to conserve battery power – for electric vehicles.
- to stay safe – for everyone. Speed is both a triggering factor and an aggravating factor in accidents.
Nonetheless, we’re all tempted to drive at 130 kph (80 mph) – we’re entitled to! Sometimes we may even drive at 136 kph (85 mph) since we won’t be picked up on radar, and occasionally even faster – to pass a slow driver, or if we’re relaxing a bit because no one is on the road, or if we’re in a hurry.
Our minds are playing a trick on us.
We’ll explain it all to you in this article.😉
It’s difficult not to drive fast
Who hasn’t driven faster than 130 kph on the motorway? 😁
- Because speed radar isn’t based on 130 kph.
- Because it’s exhilarating.
- Because you need to make up for lost time.
- Because other people are doing it.
In fact, EVERYONE loves driving fast, and that’s normal.
Yes, you read that right: it’s normal!
It has to do with how our brain operates.
We can attribute it to cognitive biases in the brain. Cognitive biases are a little like optical illusions: they are habits in the way we think that can sometimes play tricks on us.
For example, you know the straight lines are exactly the same length.
And yet your eyes persist in making you think they’re a different size!🤪
The same thing happens with the brain.
Perhaps you’re familiar with driving on snow or ice: if the vehicle’s rear wheels begin to skid, the best thing to do is to turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. But that’s completely counter-intuitive!
We simply have to accept the fact that our brain doesn’t always make us react appropriately:
- Our brain thinks driving faster will save time (and if we do the calculation: 100 km at 140 kph takes 43 minutes, 100 km at 130 kph takes 46 minutes, so we barely gain three minutes – about the time it takes to find our keys – and with traffic lights and congestion, there’s no guarantee you’ll even save that much time)
- Our brain thinks accidents only happen to other people (optimism bias).
- Our brain can’t resist imitating other drivers on the road (if others are driving fast, I can too) or peers (social conformity bias).
- Our brain thinks it acts prudently (self-serving bias).
- Our brain doesn’t like to lose even three minutes (loss aversion).
And on top of everything, it appears our brain has a “speed neuron”…
Moreover, speed has become a cardinal virtue in our society (we want the Internet to go fast, we want trains to go fast, etc.). So you can see why it’s incredibly difficult to fight this desire for speed.
All of these biases largely explain why traditional arguments and road safety campaigns don’t work (or don’t work very well).
We can tell you that you’re not losing time, you’re going to burn more fuel, you’re emitting more CO2, you’re going to pay higher fines or lose points… and your brain will listen politely but won’t pay any attention. 🤪
Those who drive the most are most affected
Those who drive the most need to combat four factors in particular:
- They drive a lot and their optimism bias and self-serving bias come together into a confirmation bias: “I believe accidents only happen to other people, and that’s been confirmed to me repeatedly, given the number of miles I drive…”
- They drive a lot and they still want to arrive home or at their customer’s site earlier because that’s a win – even though in fact they lost that time earlier by chatting too long or looking for their keys.
- They drive a lot and need to fight boredom. Few tasks are as mentally taxing as driving. Recent studies suggest that drivers need to strike a delicate balance between concentration and boredom.
- They drive a lot and often they’re part of a group of people who drive a lot, who all have a habit of driving fast, and it’s difficult to resist that social conformity bias.
So what are the arguments for driving more slowly?
In addition to the arguments that your brain has heard over and over again and no longer listens to, such as saving energy and money (fuel and fines!), protecting the planet or reducing accidents, we have some important arguments to put before you:
1. Electric vehicles
Training yourself now to drive more slowly will prove invaluable when you switch to an electric car. That’s because at speeds above 110 kph, the battery drains extremely quickly… and you risk being stranded.
2. Modelling good behaviour
You’re not afraid of having an accident? What if others were to get themselves killed because of you? A moment ago, we mentioned social conformity bias. It appears that if one person in a group praises fast driving (particularly if it’s the manager), then everyone else in the group will want to drive fast as well. And studies have shown that children learn by imitating their parents. If your children see that driving at high speeds is the norm, it’s very likely they’ll drive fast as well.
We mentioned the fatigue that comes with driving long distances, but we often forget to talk about the added fatigue generated by speed. We hear a lot of talk these days about burnout: don’t we need to learn how to slow down at the wheel?
4. Positive self-image
Driving more slowly gives us a chance to set ourselves apart and become the leader of a new movement inside the company while helping take action to preserve the climate.
How do you battle your brain?
The right tactic is to decide to do battle against your brain.
We know it’s not easy!
We surveyed a number of people and here’s what they told us:
- Make the decision: in order to change your driving behaviour and drive at the authorised speed limit (or even below it – that will help you consume even less energy :-), you need to have made that decision before you get on the road. Unless you make that decision, nothing will change.
- Choose calm music for your journey: it’s been shown that calm music encourages our unconscious to drive more slowly, while very rhythmic music does the opposite.
- Conduct a test: a test will show that in fact, you’re taking the same amount of time. Plus, you’re using less fuel. Listen to these testimonials from two company heads.
- Tell others: it’s easier to change if you appeal to the group. Make the choice to slow down a decision that you expect others to make too. More than one person will be surprised at first. Then others will want to follow suit.
And then… they say that people who drive fast often have something to prove: their virility, their power, their financial status. But you… you don’t need any of that, do you? 😉
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