In 2021, CMAP launched an initiative to examine why travel is becoming more hazardous and address safety issues. The initiative evolved into a report on speed management, to focus on harm reduction. The findings and recommendations are:
A Safe System approach can address traffic safety more holistically and effectively.
The Safe System approach to traffic safety, born in Europe in the 1970s, has had a significant impact on reducing traffic deaths. It is “human-centered,” meaning it shifts the focus from driving to safety for all travelers and accounts for human error in our transportation network. Applied at the regional level, it has the potential to address systemic safety in a new and impactful way.
Automated speed enforcement improves safety and equity when accompanied by fine reform.
Data from existing speed camera programs show that they improve safety. Drivers are more likely to reduce their speeds when they know enforcement is likely. Automated speed enforcement can reduce the impacts of racial profiling in traffic stops and eliminate the potential for escalating violence. Officials should use evidenced-based decision-making to focus the location of speed cameras in high-risk areas, and place visible signage to alert drivers of the cameras. To further improve equity, communities should implement ability-to-pay waivers and other fine reform measures.
Improved data collection and resources will help the region advance safety.
A regional data portal for our partners would provide much-needed information about safety issues, including high-crash locations and patterns of speeding. When paired with resources — such as design guidance, recommended speed limit considerations, best practices in education and enforcement, and connections to funding or technical assistance — CMAP can make significant progress toward reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries in our region.
Lower speed limits in urban and walkable residential areas.
Bicyclists and pedestrians are at particular risk to speeding vehicles. Reducing speeds marginally can mean the difference between an injury and a fatality. Reduced speed limits have also been shown to increase driver compliance with stop signs. Vehicle design also plays a role in crash outcomes, with higher and blunter SUV front bumpers being the deadliest. At speeds below 20 miles per hour, the outcomes between sedans and SUVs are similar: most pedestrians survive.
Design “self-enforcing streets” to reduce speeds.
Research shows that specific design features can help reduce travel speeds, but most of our region’s roadways do not fully leverage these design elements, which can also support safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. There is an opportunity to explain their benefits and expand their use in our region in low-speed environments. Engineers should align speed limits with roadway design to create an environment for reduced speeds.