News item 6 - Speed limit study

Post date: 07-Apr-2014 21:40:41

New study finds higher speed limits make the roads safer

Motoring groups have backed a Danish report which claims that increasing speed limits is safer. There are questions over whether it could be easily implemented in the UK though.

The study, carried out over two years by the Danish Road Directorate Vejdirektoratet, looked at how driver behaviour and accident rates changed when speed limits were raised on single-carriageway rural roads and motorways. One of the key findings was that after raising limits on two-way rural roads from 50mph to 56mph, accidents fell, due to a drop in speed differential between the fastest and the slowest drivers, resulting in less overtaking.

Slower drivers became faster with the new higher speed limit in place, while the fastest 15 per cent of drivers only drove 1 km/h faster, going against the thinking that a higher limit means everyone automatically drives like a lunatic.

“If there is a large difference between speeds, then more people will attempt to overtake, so the more homogeneous we can get the speeds on the two-lane roads, the safer they will become,” Vejdirektoratet spokesperson Rene Juhl Hollen commented.

Backing up the claim are Danish motorway figures. Fatalities have decreased in the country since the speed limit was increased from 110km/h (68mph) to 130km/h (81mph) nearly a decade ago.

A spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers have said "The research seems to suggest that we are going the wrong way in the UK. This has proven that deaths and accidents have fallen despite limits increasing."

Alliance of British Drivers: "The problem is that we are reducing the limits to such an extent that no one is taking notice of them. Too many people think the best way to make roads safe is by reducing limits."

A transport Research Laboratory (TRL) spokesman stated the research raised interesting questions. "A key element isn't just the risk of the crash that is proportional to travelling speed for a given road, but the risk of injury should a collision occur."

Transport Research Laboratory: "We would be interested to see how the Danish study has handled confounding factors. This would influence the applicability of this scheme to other countries or road networks."

The Association of Chief Police Officers would not comment.

Sourced: with support material from auto express.

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