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Setting Credible Speed Limits

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Speed SignWithout doubt, the laws that drivers fail to follow the most often must regard the speed limit. Everyone has a justification for doing so. They range from being in a hurry, which is selfish, to the limit is set too low which is either a reasonable observation or a result of failing to take all factors into consideration.

In the past, speeds were set according to engineering design standards. This was often varied by the 85th percentile rule. The logic behind this was that the limit was most likely to be followed if it was set at what the majority of drivers chose.

More recently, collision data was introduced to the equation. A higher incidence of collisions called for a reduction in the speed limit. This will likely be supplanted by tending toward speeds that will mean road users will survive and injury will be minimized if a collision does occur.

What does the future hold? Perhaps we will factor in the production of greenhouse gases. Fuel consumption rises rapidly with speed and this is directly related to what comes out of the tailpipe.

Obviously, setting a credible speed limit that drivers will accept and follow is a difficult task. However, if it is accomplished there will be a high degree of voluntary compliance and perhaps a safer driving environment.

Reference Links:

Setting Appropriate, Safe, and Credible Speed Limits (PDF) - European Transport Safety Council

Review and Analysis of Posted Speed Limits and Speed Limit Setting Practices in British Columbia (PDF)


Setting Credible Speed Limits

Each and every passing year appears to be setting a new standard of acceptable level of road speed used by most of the population. As new vehicles become lighter, faster and more fuel efficient, the ability to speed increases. The ability to stop faster and ride smoother has created a false sense of security in the world, which in turn has created a real serious problem.

As people have learned that they can accelerate and brake faster then ever before, they have also forgotten what speed limits were created for. Studies may show, that based on the total number of vehicles traveling on our roadways, the percentage of vehicle crashes is still virtually unchanged, suggesting that there is no need for immediate concern.

But vehicle crashes alone are not the only important statistics one needs to worry about. These accident statistics determine if speed is a factor in crashes. Speed is the main contributing factor in any accident. The faster you travel, the odds of a collision are greater, the impact will be greater, and the chances of severe injury are greater. It appears as though, the advent of technology has allowed people to increase their desire to speed, which is not good in residential areas.

While many think speed limits are too low, many think that the speeding problem is out of control. It is again time that statistics get pushed to the side, and the aspects of human life intervene. Speeding has become a serious problem in regards to human comfort and safety. Although accident rates may have not risen in the last few years, it is far from desirable to allow drivers to speed in residential areas that we call home.

With speed, comes noise and increased fear, items we can live without! So before you start complaining that speed limits are too low, think about the human aspects in regards to those increased limits. Residential speed limits should never have been more than 40 km/hr. A drop in residential speed limits is severely needed. The standard 50 km/hr speed limit can remain, as well as all other existing posted speed limits everywhere else.

Although your vehicle can go faster, do you really need to? The answer in NO! In an attempt to be a greener planet, increased speed limits are not welcome. And really, when you think about it, is there a need for speeding? And, when is fast going to be too slow?

Improved Vehicle Technology

I have to disagree with your comment Relentless. I see the ability to stop faster as being a legitimate sense of security, not a false sense of security. I switch between a 1994 Mazda and a 2008 VW GTI every winter and fully admit my driving style changes behind the wheel of the newer car. With 14 years of improving car technology comparing my Mazda to my VW means ABS, traction control, overall better handling and superior headlights all contribute to a greater sense of security for me that I believe is completely warranted.

I think as cities develop and the outskirts of towns become more populated these residential streets leading into town are only going to have to handle more capacity. Applying the 40km/h limit that you suggested to the street I use every day on my way into town simply places more cars on that street at any given moment, more congestion, longer times behind the wheel, and undoubtedly more frustrated drivers that want to driving more quickly.

Of course you have to take vehicles averages into account. Just because the latest sports car can stop 10 feet shorter than a comparable car from 10 years ago doesn't mean everyone's driving that new sports car. But just as collision data is used in the decisions behind posted speed limits, I think the improvements in the accident avoidance qualities of vehicles in general needs to be factored in as well.

Magazines like Road and Track as well as Car and Driver assess the accident avoidance qualities of new cars when they review them, and I think the resulting statistics are worth while to consider when purchasing a new car (and should perhaps affect the insurance prices to). I know for a fact ABS has prevented an accident for me, and the infinitely superior headlights let me see pedestrians and wild life far, far sooner at night. These are factors that absolutely affect my driving confidence - they are not trivial, false senses of security.

I can't agree with proposed solutions that impede the development of a nation and technology in general. Safe, quick road travel is an important part of our economy. The faster we can get from point A to point B safely, the more efficient we are as communities, cities and countries. Lowering speed limits isn't a solution - safer roads, safer cars and better drivers is where we need to focus. While vehicle technology has progressed steadily over time driven by competition between manufacturers, I don't think city planning behind safer roads or people's driving skills have advanced in a comparable way. Tire manufacturers collectively spend significant amounts of money researching their tire compounds. Does that same emphasis exist behind the actual materials used on the surfaces of our roads? Auto manufacturers spend even more researching safety features that are built into their cars - is there a comparable effort behind assessing the quality and ability of the average driver?

A lot can happen after you pass your Learner and Novice stages and get your full license. Medications come into play, eye sight degrades, reaction times slow, etc etc etc. Of course you can counter that our youngest drivers are the most likely to get in an accident, but I've never seen the corresponding statistic published about how much time younger generations spend driving comparing to older generations. It's like the cycling helmet statistic. "95% of cycling accidents happen within 5 km of the home, so wear your helmet every time". Well, 95% of cyclists probably don't cycle further than 5km from their home so is the statistic really relevant or simply more of a scare tactic? The same goes for the stats behind our younger drivers. You can't argue that speed and new drivers is a good mix, and yes there are concerning numbers of young drivers loosing their lives due to dangerous driving and speed. But put the rest of the population on the road for the same amount of time per day as young drivers and I doubt the gap would be as significant. I'm a 24 year old male with a clean driving record. It wasn't too long ago that I was driving 3x more often simply because I could. Let's say I was putting 3x the mileage on my car than the average middle aged person, therefore I was 3x more likely to be involved in an accident. It does not mean that the average middle aged driver is 3x more safe than I was on the road. But I deviated from my point...

The need to speed

The big problem with “the need to drive faster” and to get from point A to point B faster, is exactly what is causing the problems. As drivers get used to driving faster, they take their higher speeds everywhere, where it begins to affect the quality of life for many residents.

Residential streets are where are homes are, where we spend time outside, where children play. What has taken place is that we have many vehicles being driven well over the 50 km/hr limit in areas where the speed should only be 40km/hr. The reason this is taking place is because many people seem to be making their daily journeys a game of how fast they can get from point A to B just because their vehicle is capable of doing so.

As a City grows, one must expect it to take longer to travel from Point A to point B. A properly designed road system will allow fast movement, but is not always possible, thus, resulting in many residential roads being used as racetracks, which creates unhappy fearful homeowners, which have lost their quality of life.

Many drivers appear to be in a rush, possibly because of busy lifestyles, or maybe due to poor planning, where I believe the latter is the cause. Higher speeds do absolutely nothing, except create more fear, anger, and possibly allow you to save a bit of time if you are so lucky to clear an intersection before the light turns red.

Many younger drivers get used to acceleration factor of many new vehicles, the thrill far surpasses any common sense. Instead of people being happy, and lucky that they can drive from point A to point B, now there is a concern for how fast they can do it. Aggressive driving is a very common problem, with many people feeling they have to be at the front of a line at a red light, and although there vehicle can safely get them there, what has the aggressive driver done to other drivers on the road?

Many existing roads were created to serve a specific traffic volume at a certain speed, as population increases, people feel a need to drive faster, like the traffic volume is creating stress and people respond by driving faster. Increased speed limits on properly designed new roads, helps move traffic volume, but the traffic will always end up in a residential area where higher speeds aren’t welcome, but exist.

People need to recognize where they can drive faster and where they can’t. The problem is the need to get from Point A to B as fast as possible has created the undesirable effect of a lack of respect towards pedestrians, cyclists and homeowners.

As it is today, many drivers are driving 20-40Km/hr over the posted speed, which is creating fear and a real big lack of security to many homeowners. The increased speed is creating more tailgating and running of stop signs/lights. Now, add that to the 300% increase in drunk drivers on the roads, and there is cause for concern.

I don’t speed, and don’t feel a need to speed. I am quite happy being able to drive everywhere I want to go. I drive slow in residential areas (40Km/hr max on side streets) showing respect for residents and pedestrians, and am very comfortable knowing that when I am going somewhere, it is not about how fast I get there, but how respectably I drive, and how courteous I am to others around me.

Submitted by Russell

While most modern cars are quite safe and capable at speeds higher than legal limits, few would argue that driver training (particularly with motorcycles) and more importantly driver attitude and awareness are seldom at the level necessary, often at speeds even below the posted limit. (I'd love to see a psych evaluation component added to driver training, and randomized non-optional yearly testing introduced). Your last part about slowing down for environmental reasons is good, with one possible wrench in the works that I've noticed. With both automatic and manual transmission cars, some highway speeds (usually 70-80kph) are "between" gears, so the engine is either revving higher than necessary or too low. The result is less than ideal fuel economy, so, in some cases it's better to speed up to use top gear, or slow to one below top gear, or in the case of freeways, which can be 110kph, a lot of cars are revving way higher than necessary. Less fuel could be burned simply with smarter gearing choices.

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