Over recent years it has been common for speed limits in parts of the UK to be reduced. 20mph limits are now commonplace in urban areas while certain stretches of motorway have also seen their speed limits fall.
While road safety campaigners continue to call for a cut in the speed limit, new research from Denmark has found that accidents actually fell on roads where the speed limit was increased. Keep reading to find out more…
Higher speed limits led to fewer accidents in Denmark
A report by the Danish Road Directorate Vejdirektoratet has found that increasing the speed limit actually had a positive effect on the number of road accidents. The two year study in Denmark found that accidents fell on single-carriageway rural roads where the speed limit was raised, while accidents also fell on motorways where the speed limit had been increased.
Since the speed limit on some stretches of two-way rural roads was increased from 80 to 90 km/h (from 50mph to 56mph) accidents have decreased due to a reduction in the speed differential between the slowest and fastest cars. The smaller differential in speeds meant that there was less overtaking, reducing the risk to drivers.
The slowest drivers have increased their speeds, but the fastest 15 per cent drive one km/h slower on average, despite the higher limit. While the average speed remains similar to before, the speeds are more alike on the roads in question.
Rene Juhl Hollen, a Vejdirektoratet spokesperson, said: “It was what we were hoping for. It looks like we’ve found the appropriate speed on those stretches of road, so we will reduce the speed differentials and consequently decrease the number of people overtaking.”
The Copenhagen Post reports that ‘experts say that it’s too early to say whether the experiment, which will run until 2015, is a success, but there is no denying the statistics at the halfway point.’
The police were initially sceptical of the move, believing that people would drive even faster. However, following the research, they have changed their minds. As Erik Mather, a senior Danish traffic police officer admitted: “The police are perhaps a little biased on this issue, but we’ve had to completely change our view now that the experiment has gone on for two years.”
Fatalities on motorways also decrease where the speed limits are higher
The research from the Danish Road Directorate also found that on sections of motorway where the speed limit was raised from 110 to 130 km/h (68mph to 81mph) nine years ago, fatalities also decreased.
Commenting on the research, joint chairman of the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) Brian Gregory said: “These findings vindicate what the ABD has been saying for years, that raising unreasonably low speed limits improves road safety by reducing speed differentials and driver frustration.
“They also confirm decades of research from the USA and UK on the setting of speed limits. It is now time for the Government to push ahead with raising the motorway speed limit to 80 mph. It must also change its guidance to local authorities on setting speed limits, so that they are once again set at a level that commands the respect of drivers.
“This means reinstating the 85th percentile principle – setting limits that 85 percent of drivers would not wish to exceed. Those who have argued that lower speed limits improve safety have been proved wrong.”