Traffic safety effects of new speed limits in Sweden

The effects of speed, both positive and negative, make speed a primary target for policy action. Driving speeds affect the risk of being involved in a crash and the injury severity as well as the noise and exhaust emissions. Starting 2008, the Swedish Transport Administration performed a review of the speed limits on the national rural road network. This review resulted in major changes of the speed limits on the rural road network. It was predominantly roads with a low traffic safety standard and unsatisfactory road sides that were selected for reduced speed limits, as well as roads with a good traffic safety record being selected for an increase in speed limits. During 2008 and 2009, speed limit changed on approximately 20,500km of roads, out of which approximately 2700km were assigned an increase, and 17,800km were assigned a reduction in speed limits. The aim of this study is predominantly to describe and analyse the longterm traffic safety effect of increased, as well as, reduced speed limits, but also to analyse the changes in actual driving speeds due to the changed speed limits. Traffic safety effects are investigated by means of a before and after study with control group and the effects on actual mean speeds are measured by a sampling survey in which speed was measured at randomly selected sites before and after the speed limit changes. Results show a reduction in fatalities on rural roads with reduced speed limit from 90 to 80km/h where the number of fatalities decreased by 14 per year, while no significant changes were seen for the seriously injured. On motorways with an increased speed limit to 120km/h, the number of seriously injured increased by about 15 per year, but no significant changes were seen for the number of deaths. The number of seriously injured increased on all types of motorways, but the worst development was seen for narrow motorways (21.5m wide). For 2+1 roads (a continuous three-lane cross-section with alternating passing lanes and the two directions of travel separated by a median barrier) with decreased speed limit from 110 to 100km/h, the seriously injured decreased by about 16 per year. As regards the change of mean speeds, a decrease in speed limit with 10km/h led to a decrease of mean speeds of around 2–3km/h and an increase of the speed limit with 10km/h resulted in an increase of mean speed by 3km/h. In conclusion, the results show that in total about 17 lives per year have been saved on the road network with changed speed limits. For comparison, 397 road users were killed in total during 2008. The number of seriously injured remain in principle unchanged. It should also be noted that the results are obtained for the road network which changed the speed limits during 2008 and 2009, and it is not certain that the results can be generalised to another road network.


  • English

Media Info

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01664622
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 12 2018 3:42PM