Is speeding really a sin?

I know that we are obliged to obey our civil authorities in all matters that do not contradict the moral or natural law. But how strictly should we follow that? I’m very scrupulous, so I try not to take such obedience too far. But what about more minor infractions like jaywalking and speeding? When I say speeding, by the way, I’m talking about maybe ten MPH over the speed limit or less–or perhaps a bit more on an open highway during the day in good weather. I’m just trying to find a rule of thumb to use when dealing with laws like this, especially speeding. It’s incredibly frustrating to be that guy going the speed limit when the rest of the road is cruising along. While “everybody else does it” does not justify breaking moral norms, perhaps it does justify breaking merely civil ones?

Thanks for your thoughts

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Respect for health

2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

Most of us, when we speed, are not doing it for “love of speed,” in other words, to seek thrills. We want to get somewhere a little quicker. We go as fast as we feel is safe. We avoid other risky behaviors while driving. So the above paragraph would not seem to apply.

While I do not believe speeding is sinful, it may be imprudent. Speed is a key factor in the risk of driving or riding in a car.

By “grave guilt” does that mean it would be a mortal sin. I do not think it is sinful for someone to love fast cars and going fast as that is the purpose of owning a sports car or speedboat.

Right. That would make speeding in itself a moral problem.

But my question is to something a little different. Since speeding is a civil law, and we are bound too follow civil law, then wouldn’t speeding still be wrong even if it isn’t dangerous or for love of speed?

In other words, your quote from the CCC deals with speeding as a problem in itself. But I’m taking about the morality of speeding as a violation of civil law.

Various factors yes go into such. It can be said that some “speeding” can be “not a sin” at times in America (like often times going a few over 55 in a 55mph zone or something like that). It can also of course be a sin – such as going 90 in 45 mph zone!

It has been noted too that those who set the speed limit (the lawgiver) and those who enforce such --know that people will often go above the limit a little and so they intentionally post a lower limit than intended and often only enforce what is a good deal over the limit. So the “intention of the lawgiver” is important too (though if they decide to enforce even 1 mile over with a ticket --one has to pay).

And sometimes going the posted limit goes contrary to safety – so one might judge that one really needs to go faster a bit so as not to cause an accident.

I am not encouraging going over the limit – but simply not such as perhaps a help here with any scruples.

One has to judge. Certainly we need to drive safely and for the safety of others. Such is very important. Too many do not take care and follow the laws that are for their safety.

Now if it is say a school zone or a neighborhood with kids – please please everyone slow all the way down to the posted limit.

I would like to prefix my reply by mentioning that I am a member of the UK’s Institute of Advanced Motorists and have spent the last 17 years as a part-time, volunteer “instructor” on safer driving courses.

WIth respect to speeding, there is the element of the moral duty to respect just laws. And officially, I can’t give anybody permission to break the speed limit! But there is the possibility that in specific situations, it may be safe (but not legal!) to drive a few miles higher than the speed limit. That often depends on the circumstances at the time - road conditions, the position and movement of other road users, etc - and the driving ability of the driver.

To give a concrete example. In my area, there are certain roads where the speed limit was 60mph. I used these roads regularly, and knew the areas where it was safe to drive up to the speed limit and the areas where I had to slow down to a safe speed within the limit. I would use these roads when training other drivers, teaching them how to assess the safe speed for each stretch of the same road. Recently, the speed limits on these roads was dropped, to 40mph or 50mph, because of the number of accidents. SO legally the speed limit is lower, but I knw from my own experiences that there are stretches on these roads where it is possible to safely go higher. And there are also roads where the speed limit is 30mph, but there are schools on the roadside, and it may only be safe to d 20mph when the children are coming out of school.

So it is all down to a mixture of common sense and respect for legitimate authority.

A ‘love of speed’ is a grave offense? Is it a sin to skydive or go bungy jumping?

In my opinion speed limits are set primarily, if not only, for safety reasons. Therefore if a driver deliberately breaks a speed limit he/she does not care about the safety of other people and is willing to risk injuring others. In my view that should not just be a sin but should be a sin of grave matter.

I’m not clear on that. The Catechism also says:

Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.

and

If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value.

I am taking that last one slightly out of context, but these two quotations suggest we are not expected to avoid all risks. For example, high-school athletics are risky, but it’s not usually regarded as a moral issue.

Sorry to digress further, but…

… One reason we don’t worry much about speeding is that the overall rate of motor vehicle fatality is quite low, currently about 1 death per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The rate has been declining steadily for decades as cars and roads are increasingly designed for safety. In the US, motor vehicle accidents account for about 1.5% of all deaths. Obeying speed laws would save some lives, but probably more lives could be saved if people ate healthier foods and got more exercise.

These are two totally unrelated issues.

No but breaking the law usually is

Various factors yes go into such. It can be said that some “speeding” can be “not a sin” at times in America (like often times going a few over 55 in a 55mph zone or something like that). It can also of course be a sin – such as going 90 in 45 mph zone!

It has been noted too that those who set the speed limit (the lawgiver) and those who enforce such --know that people will often go above the limit a little and so they intentionally post a lower limit than intended and often only enforce what is a good deal over the limit.

So the “intention of the lawgiver” can be said to be important

(though if they decide to enforce even 1 mile over with a ticket --one has to pay).

And sometimes going the posted limit goes contrary to safety – so one might judge that one really needs to go faster a bit so as not to cause an accident.

I am not encouraging going over the limit per se

One has to judge. Certainly we need to drive safely and for the safety of others. Such is very important. Too many do not take care and follow the laws that are for their safety.

Now if it is say a school zone or a neighborhood with kids – please please everyone slow all the way down to the posted limit.

Not directly related to the OP’s comments, but this may be interesting for some people: vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/migrants/pom2007_104-suppl/rc_pc_migrants_pom104-suppl_orientamenti-en.html

The first document “The Pastoral Care of Road Users” relates to various aspects of driving.

I hope not – I have enough to answer for on judgment day:crying:

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