Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One hour's driving costs 20 minutes of life, study says

  • Print
TORONTO -- Every hour spent behind the wheel represents a 20-minute loss in life expectancy because of the risk of being involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident, say researchers, who calculate that even a slight reduction in speed by the average driver could save lives.

"When drivers try to speed to get to their destination faster, they actually lose more time because the savings from faster travel are offset by the increased prospect of a crash," said lead investigator Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a staff physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

"The 20-minute penalty for each hour spent driving... is completely invisible to most drivers. But it is there lurking in the background, and at the end of the year, it adds up to about 45,000 deaths." (About 3,000 people in Canada and almost 42,000 in the United States die in motor vehicle accidents each year.)

A study with co-author Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi recommends that easing back on the pedal even a bit could pay significant dividends over time.

"The estimates suggest that slowing down slightly by about three kilometres an hour would cost average drivers about three minutes daily in trip time, but save them about three hours annually in overall survival," Redelmeier said.

Applied at the population level, even a three km/h speed reduction could provide a huge benefit, he stressed. In the United States, for example, the slower speed would translate into about three million fewer crashes causing property damage, one million fewer crashes causing injury and 9,000 fewer deaths each year.

"The point here is the average driver out there isn't so far off, they are just slightly off and they are off in the direction of going slightly too fast.

"So it boils down to a reminder to slow down, because haste makes waste."

The study, published in Monday's issue of the Journal of Medical Decision Making, used a complex formula for estimating reduced life expectancy. It was based on a combination of computerized traffic modelling, U.S. national statistics covering driving on public roadways and the laws of physics.

The computer models took into account average distances and the time that drivers in the United States travel daily, the number of annual crashes categorized as fatal, injurious and causing property damage, as well as the expected time losses due to crashes of varying severity.

For any driver who wonders how such an estimate affects them personally, Redelmeier said the risk of a potentially deadly or injurious accident occurring exists even for the most mundane reasons for getting behind the wheel. Think of grocery shopping, a doctor's appointment or running the kids to school.

"For every person who died in a motor vehicle crash, there are about 50 other people who are left permanently disabled," he said, including those with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries or chronic pain syndromes from multiple fractures.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2010 A8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Interview with Bobbi Ethier of Wasylycia-Leis campaign

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.
  • A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hangs out on a birch tree in St. Vital. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is considered a keystone species. Other species take advantage of the holes that the birds make in trees. A group of sapsuckers are collectively known as a

View More Gallery Photos


Do you support Pimicikamak First Nation's protest against Manitoba Hydro?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google