Safe Speed

Driving above the speed limit, or too fast for the current conditions, can have severe consequences for the people in a vehicle and other road users, and is recognised by the international community as one of the key road safety risk factors.

Speeding can make it more likely that a crash will happen, and often means that injuries are more severe than they would have been if the driver was obeying the speed limit or at a speed that is suitable for the conditions.

It can be difficult to make drivers stop speeding because some drivers find speeding enjoyable or do it to save time. They might underestimate the risk from driving too fast and might be unconcerned about the potential consequences, believing that their driving skill is such that speeding is acceptable. Drivers can be deterred from breaking the speed limit through police enforcement and the use of technology such as speed cameras.

Engineering measures can be used to make traffic slow down. Another longer-term solution is to bring about a change in societal attitudes towards the acceptability of speeding by carrying out education campaigns to raise awareness of the issue. The key to this approach is to provide clear evidence on the higher risk of crashes and severe injuries due to driving faster than the speed limit or the road conditions. Speed limits should be set at levels that reflect the road design, condition and use in order to give drivers the right information about the acceptable maximum speed. Changing attitudes to speeding also makes enforcement more effective and acceptable.

While it is difficult to stop some drivers from speeding it is important that every effort is made to do so. It has been estimated that speed is a factor in 30% of crashes (OECD/ECMT report on Speed Management). It also increases the severity of the consequences of a crash, both for those in the vehicle(s) (see Related Images, Figure 1.4) and especially for any vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians, see Related Images, Figure 1.1).

Speeding also affects how far a vehicle will travel after the brakes are used in an emergency situation (see Related Images, Figure 1.2) which also makes it more difficult to avoid crashing.

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