Speeding is one of the most persistent and deadly road safety problems – in 2020, speeding was a contributing factor in nearly a third of all traffic fatalities – but a new initiative shows promise in getting drivers to slow down and in reducing crashes and fatalities. Average speeds fell 9% and the odds that a vehicle on the road was speeding dropped by three-quarters.
Those are the highlights of an anti-speeding pilot project announced on Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF).
“Road deaths have been climbing, and more than a quarter of them are connected to speeding,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement. “As this study shows, a practical, comprehensive approach to the problem can slow drivers down.”
The testing was carried out during a pilot speed-management program in July 2021 on a 2.4-mile section of a two-lane rural road in Bishopville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The road is popular with beachgoers in the summer months and is known to have a speeding problem.
A combination of enforcement, engineering and public outreach was successful in getting drivers to slow down during the evaluation period, according to researchers.
A number of different measures and tools to moderate traffic were employed during the recent evaluation in Maryland:
– lanes were narrowed by doubling the width of the painted edge and center lines to 10 inches;
– speed feedback signs, which show drivers how fast they are going as they pass, were installed in two locations;
– signs announcing the enforcement and encouraging drivers to slow down went up along the corridor;
– officials conducted four five-day waves of enhanced, high-visibility enforcement, which resulted in more than 120 speeding citations;
– social media posts, highway billboards and ads in a local weekly and on the navigation app Waze accompanied enforcement efforts; and
– state highway officials engaged in public outreach. Flyers highlighting the lane narrowing, planned speed enforcement and messaging were distributed to local residents and businesses.
Area drivers were surveyed as part of the study. They were asked their thoughts about how likely they thought speeders would be stopped by the police. The percentage who said it was likely or very likely was higher after the program began than before, (69% versus 47%). In addition, the percentage of drivers who said speeding was a major problem on the rural road used for testing declined from 31% to 7%.
The positive effects were temporary and largely faded once the measures were discontinued, the safety groups said.
After the trial period, average speeds were just 2% lower than before the program began, and while the odds of speeding by any amount were 37% lower, the odds of a driver going more than 10 mph over the posted limit were 12% higher.
The effects of the pilot program seem to have lingered for many drivers, but not the most aggressive speeders, according to the researchers.
A similar project in an urban environment is expected to begin later this year in Virginia sponsored by the same three safety groups, and Maryland officials said the state looks forward to exploring additional opportunities to implement the comprehensive approach to reduce speeding in communities across the state.
“Speeding is dangerous and deadly, and no one solution will solve the problem,” Jonathan Adkins, the GHSA’s executive director, said in a statement. “Clearly, the Maryland project shows that a holistic approach can get drivers to slow down. When they do, it has a positive impact on their safety and that of everyone else on the road.”
For more information about the program, click here and here.