Evaluating the safety impact of increased speed limits on rural highways in British Columbia

Maximum speed limits are usually set to inform drivers of the highest speed that it is safe and appropriate for ideal traffic, road and weather conditions. Many previous studies were conducted to investigate the relationship between changed speed limits and safety. The results of these studies generally show that relaxing speed limits can negatively affect safety, especially with regard to fatal and injury crashes. Despite these results, several road jurisdictions in North America continue to raise the maximum speed limits. In 2013, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure initiated a speed limits review. The review found that the 85th percentile speed on many highway segments was 10 km/h higher than corresponding posted speed limits and 1300 km of rural provincial highway segments were recommended for higher speed limits. Most of the highway segments had 10 km/h speed limit increase with a small section having 20 km/h speed limit increase. As speed limit changes can have a substantial impact on safety, the main objective of this study is to estimate the effect of the increased speed limits on crash occurrence. A before-after evaluation was undertaken with the full Bayesian technique. Overall, the evaluation showed that changed speed limits led to a statistically significant increase in fatal-plus-injury (severe) crashes of 11.1%. A crash modification function that includes changes in the treatment effect over time showed that the initial increase of the first post-implementation period may slightly decrease over time.


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  • Accession Number: 01612274
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 25 2016 9:56AM