Faster or slower?

This semester, I’m driving between East Lansing and Grand Rapids once each week to teach a Math Methods course for our graduate student interns who are student teachers in the Grand Rapids area. A one-way trip is about 68 miles, so it takes about an hour.


Last week, the drive to Grand Rapids took about 2 hours, because of an accident. I ended up being a half an hour late (thank goodness for my co-instructor!) to class.

Before I hit traffic, I was hoping to arrive at 8:00 AM (although the class didn’t begin until 8:30). At 7:30, I was about 37 miles from my exit. I wondered: How fast would I have to drive to arrive to the building by 8:00 AM? I thought, if I could drive ten miles over the speed limit, I could arrive before 8! But would it be worth it? There are a lot of reasons not to speed, mostly my reasons are: (a) fear of a ticket or (b) fear of an accident. A ticket is painful financially plus it takes time to be pulled over – so by driving faster, I might end up arriving later. An accident is worse, because it could hurt me physically, or it could hurt others. I could still get a ticket. And an accident would slow me down even more! What are other reasons I shouldn’t speed? And – (a question I ask myself all the time) what is “speeding”, really? That is, when is am I going to fast? Is it going fast enough to get a ticket? Is it going too fast to react well? (in that case, the top speed would change if I’m a little tired or distracted) As I thought about these things, I also realized that going faster for such a small distance didn’t really benefit me that much – was it worth it to go 20 miles over the speed limit to save seven minutes?


Traffic slowed to a crawl at 7:59 AM, I was still 13 miles from my exit, and I needed to be to class no later than 8:30. Once I take my exit, it usually takes me about 5-10 minutes to get to the building, get out of my car, and walk to the classroom. So, I would assume that, in order to get to the classroom on time, I should be at my exit no later than 8:20.


I thought through my options, and realized that as long as I could get up to 45 mph, I’d be fine. I had no worries at that point.  But about 20 minutes later (8:20), I still was 11 miles away. As long as I could get up to at least 60 mph, I’d probably be fine. But if I could go 70 (the speed limit) then that would be perfect. I noticed that – at that point – driving even 30 miles over the speed limit wouldn’t save much time, but my risk of an accident or a ticket would drastically increase. So speeding probably wouldn’t be a good decision, even though I wanted to feel like I was making progress.


Unfortunately, traffic didn’t start moving until about 8:40, and by that time I was already late.