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Speed and Crash Risk - New report from ITF

8 April 2018

The International Transport Forum (ITF) report, ‘Speed and Crash Risk’, again highlights  that with higher driving speeds the number of crashes – and the crash severity – ‘increase disproportionally’.

It emphasises that speed has a direct influence on crash occurrence and severity. With higher driving speeds, the number of crashes and the crash severity increase disproportionally. With lower speeds the number of crashes and the crash severity decrease. This relationship has been captured in various models, most notably Nilsson’s “Power Model”. This shows that a 1% increase in average speed results in approximately a 2% increase in injury crash frequency, a 3% increase in severe crash frequency, and a 4% increase in fatal crash frequency. Thus, reducing speed by a few km/h can greatly reduce the risks of and severity of crashes. Lower driving speeds also benefit quality of life, especially in urban areas as the reduction of speed mitigates air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel consumption and noise.

The research showed that all the cases indicated a strong relationship between speed and the number of crashes, i.e , an increase in mean speed was accompanied by an increase in the number of crashes and/or injured road users. Conversely, a decrease in mean speed was associated with a decrease in the number of crashes and injured road users. In no cases was an increase in mean speed accompanied by a decrease in the number of crashes or casualties. The pattern of the relationship is consistent across cases, although the size of the effect differs substantially between them. These differences are explained partially by varying definitions for injury crashes between countries and the small overall numbers of fatal crashes for some of the countries studied.

The report makes four key recommendations :

  • Reduce the speed on roads as well as speed differences between vehicles
  • Set speed limits according to Safe System principles
  • Improve infrastructure and enforcement if speed limits are to be increased
  • Use automatic speed control to reduce speed effectively

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