Following a three month investigation, the South Carolina Highway Patrol announced that excessive speed was the primary contributing factor in an October 2015 car crash that killed four college students.
According to the report, a car containing driver James Campbell, of Greenville, and four other students from USC Upstate was travelling 65 mph through a 25 mph zone when it careened off the road on 4th Street near Highway 9 in Boiling Springs. Local first responders say that the area is known for a high number of dangerous car crashes; the Department of Public Safety says that vehicle traffic averages 45 mph in the area. Spartanburg County officials say that there are plans to re-engineer and redesign the streets in the area to make them safer, but they have less than a third of the money needed to complete the project.
20-year-old Felicia Ahlborg, of Sweden, was the only survivor.
Speed in a Car Crash
Excessive speed is a contributing factor in about a third of car crashes, a percentage that has remained relatively consistent for the past fifteen years. Rather curiously, only about 10 percent of speed-related fatalities occur on highways; a majority of these wrecks occur on local roadways with a speed limit under 55mph. In South Carolina in 2013, out of the 1,066 traffic fatalities, only five occurred on high-speed interstates.
Speed is so dangerous because it affects both the primary and secondary crashes. In terms of the primary, or vehicle-on-vehicle crash, speed increases braking distance and reaction time, so the faster a car or truck is travelling, the less amount of time the drivers have to react in emergency situations.
Moreover, according to Newton’s Second Law of Physics, the faster an object is travelling, the greater force it accumulates. So, excessive speed has the potential to turn a “fender bender” non-injury crash into a serious, or even fatal, collision.
There is also the matter of the secondary collision, the one between people and objects. The Second Law also applies in these situations, because although the vehicle stops suddenly, the passengers and all other objects in the car are still travelling at the same speed as before. That means that passengers slam into fixed objects and loose items become high-speed projectiles.
Damages in a Speeding Case
Because of the force involved, damages in a high-speed crash are often substantial. An injured victim is entitled to:
- Property Damages: Defendants have a legal duty to restore plaintiffs to the place they were before the crash.
- Economic Losses: A serious crash means lost wages due to missed work, hospital expenses, first responder bills, rehabilitation expenses, and a host of other out-of-pocket costs.
- Noneconomic Losses: South Carolina law allows victims to recover money for the pain and suffering they endure, the emotional distress of seeing loved ones injured or killed, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment in life.
Punitive damages are also available in some speeding cases, if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was particularly reckless.