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Safety effects of reducing the speed limit from 90km/h to 70km/h

Authors
  • De Pauw, Ellen
  • Daniels, Stijn
  • Thierie, Melissa
  • Brijs, Tom1
  • 1 Transportation Research Institute, Hasselt University
Type
Published Article
Journal
Accident Analysis & Prevention
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
Accepted Date
May 02, 2013
Volume
62
Pages
426–431
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.05.003
Source
Elsevier
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Speed is one of the main risk factors in traffic safety, as it increases both the chances and the severity of a crash. In order to achieve improved traffic safety by influencing the speed of travel, road authorities may decide to lower the legally imposed speed limits. In 2001 the Flemish government decided to lower speed limits from 90km/h to 70km/h on a considerable number of highways. The present study examines the effectiveness of this measure using a comparison group before- and after study to account for general trend effects in road safety. Sixty-one road sections with a total length of 116km were included. The speed limits for those locations were restricted in 2001 and 2002. The comparison group consisted of 19 road sections with a total length of 53km and an unchanged speed limit of 90km/h throughout the research period. Taking trend into account, the analyses showed a 5% decrease [0.88; 1.03] in the crash rates after the speed limit restriction. A greater effect was identified in the case of crashes involving serious injuries and fatalities, which showed a decrease of 33% [0.57; 0.79]. Separate analyses between crashes at intersections and at road sections showed a higher effectiveness at road sections. It can be concluded from this study that speed limit restrictions do have a favorable effect on traffic safety, especially on severe crashes. Future research should examine the cause for the difference in the effect between road sections and intersections that was identified, taking vehicle speeds into account.

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