To speed or not to speed: Thematic analysis of American driving narratives

Colleen M. Peterson, Joseph E. Gaugler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Speeding is a major cause of unintentional roadway death in the United States. Existing data show that U.S. drivers tend to speed less as they age, but reasons for this change remain largely unknown. Limited research has examined why U.S. drivers decide to speed or why U.S. drivers decide not to speed, and none to date has determined why speeding behaviors change over the life course. Research into these issues can provide insight that may be harnessed for more effective anti-speeding interventions that catalyze decisions not to speed. Methods: The current study asked a national sample of U.S. drivers (N = 309) about their driving behaviors and how they have changed over time using an open-ended prompt in an online survey. The authors qualitatively coded responses using a narrative analysis lens to identify common themes. Results: Results show U.S. drivers often make deliberate choices to speed and some do not consider speeding to be dangerous after achieving perceived mastery of driving skills. Participants tended to report speeding less over time, citing increased concern for family and other roadway users, which may help explain national speeding data trends. Several other themes emerged identifying individual cognitive factors, environmental contexts, and key persons impacting speeding decisions. Practical Applications: Findings show that the most effective means of encouraging U.S. drivers to decide not to speed may be multi-pronged intervention approaches highlighting how speeding reduces roadway driver control, connecting speeding with safety, and encompassing road design and law enforcement strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Decision making
  • Driver attitude
  • Driver behavior
  • Qualitative research
  • Roadway safety
  • Speeding


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