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Could Driving Faster Actually Be Safer

We are used to hearing that driving fast is bad, as we are putting ourselves at greater risk. We are punished for exceeding the set limit at every corner, whether it’s a vigilant policeman, sneaky speed camera or devilish speed bump. However, findings from a recent Danish study could actually bring contradictory evidence into the great speed debate. Now before anyone gets too revved up, reading this article will not give you a reason to break the current speed limits. Instead it will provide interesting food for thought on particular situations where road safety in the future could benefit from raised speed limits.

The Danish Road Directorate performed their driving study over the duration of two years. Independent sets of data were sampled and carefully assessed including drivers’ behaviour on the road. Specifically the study focused on increasing the existing speed limit of a road and monitoring the results. Both a rural two-lane road and motorway were chosen for use in this particular study. For the rural road the speed limit was initially left unchanged at 50mph, allowing the researchers to establish a baseline. After the sampling duration was complete the speed limit was raised to 56mph and sampling was repeated.

Once the full results were in, a surprising trend emerged indicating that the rate of accidents on the road decreased when the speed limit was increased. Researchers concluded that by raising the speed limit they had actually reduced the difference in speed between the quicker and slower drivers. As a direct result, the more speedy drivers often felt less of a need to overtake the slower cars. Overtaking is one of the most dangerous driving manoeuvres so this made a considerable impact on accident rates. Contrary to popular belief, even slowest of the drivers would still increase their speed when faced with increased limits. The faster drivers generally seemed more satisfied by their speeds, even settling at 1mph less than previously but without the need to overtake. For the other part of the study, data was sampled from a section of motorway. On this road the limit was increased from 68mph up to 80mph. When the same data was collected it presented a remarkable similar trend to the rural road, accidents and fatalities were reduced.

The Alliance of British Drivers was intrigued by the results from this study. Their spokesman made the following statement: “Evidence from this study suggests that we might not be currently using the best approach here in the United Kingdom. The findings have defied our current belief by showing that accident rates could benefit increased speed limits in some cases”.

However, not everyone has been so welcoming to the findings of this study. Many have even declined the chance to comment on the matter, including representatives from the police. Some friction is to be expected when it directly contradicts the current speed theories for the UK. This case does prove that a different approach could benefit us drivers. With similar studies gaining interest in the future we can look forward to an improved and safer driving experience on our roads.


published: 07/04/2015 09:20:41

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