Invited Presentations

All PowerPoint presentations are available on the NHTSA Web site,

Speeding: Who, When, Where
Richard Compton, Director, Office of Research and Technology, NHTSA.

Compton presented summary data on speeding-related fatal crashes from NHTSA’s FARS and on self-reported attitudes and behaviors from a 2002 NHTSA national telephone survey. Key points included:

  • Speeding-related traffic fatalities have remained essentially unchanged since 1992, accounting for about one-third of traffic fatalities and about 13,000 lives annually.
  • Speeding-related traffic fatalities occur on all road types, though the crash rate per mile of travel is highest on local roads.
  • Young drivers, especially males, are over-involved in speeding-related traffic fatalities.
  • Speeding drivers in fatal crashes had been drinking more frequently and use safety belts less frequently than non-speeding drivers.
  • In interviews, most drivers reported speeding within the past month, on all types of roads.
  • Almost all drivers reported that they felt threatened by other speeding drivers.

Relation of Speed and Speed Limits to Crashes
Susan Ferguson, Senior Vice President for Research, IIHS

Ferguson discussed the research findings on the relation of speed to crashes and crash severity; the relation of speed limit changes to speed and crashes; and characteristics of excessive speeders. Key points included:

  • Crash rates are lowest for drivers traveling near the mean speed and are higher for drivers traveling above or below the mean speed. Below average speeds are often unavoidable due to traffic conditions or vehicles slowing to turn or merge.

  • As crash speeds increase, the risk of injury and fatality increases exponentially, since the energy released in a crash is proportional to the square of the impact speed.

  • The majority of evidence from the National Maximum Speed Limit suggests that reductions in speed limits reduce vehicle speed and crashes while increases in speed limits increase speeds and crashes.

  • Excessive speeders are more likely to be male, younger, and have poor driving records.

Canadian Speed Management Overview
James G. White, Engineering Advisor, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation, Transport Canada

White reviewed Canadian speed management policies, programs, and research. Key points included:

  • Canada’s Road Safety Vision has a goal of reducing speed-related crashes by 20 percent by 2010 from the 1996-2001 baseline.

  • Canada’s four core speed management strategies are:

    • Driver education and awareness of speed risks;
    • Research on best practices for enforcement and for driver education and motivation;
    • Infrastructure improvements including national speed limit standards and consistent national crash data;
    • Optimizing the use of enforcement resources and coordinating with education and infrastructure improvements.

  • A 1997 Canadian review of speed research concluded that:
    • Speed limit changes have little effect on travel speed or safety;
    • Drivers select travel speeds based on physical cues of the road environment;
    • Speed enforcement effects are short-lived;
    • A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to affect travel speeds.

  • Longer-term research is ongoing with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ASA).

OECD Speed Management Working Group Status Report
James G. White, Engineering Advisor, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation, Transport Canada

White summarized the operations of the OECD Speed Management Working Group, established in January 2004. Nineteen countries, including the United States and Canada, are participating. The Working Group’s goals are to:

  • Review current knowledge about the effects of speed;

  • Examine current best practices and promising research on speed management methods;

  • Define a global approach to speed management.

The group has collected and summarized information from participating countries on their speed limits, actual speeds, speed effects, speed management measures, and research. The final report is scheduled for release in early 2006. Further information is available at,2987,en_2649_201185_1_1_1_1_1,00.html.

Speed Management “Down Under”
Ian Johnston, Director, Monash University Accident Research Centre

Johnston described the comprehensive urban speed management program introduced in the Melbourne metropolitan area, Victoria, Australia, in January 2001. The program’s goal was to “shift the entire speed distribution to the left” and reduce speeds across the board. It included:

  • Reduced general speed limits in urban areas from 60 to 50 km/h;

  • A progressive increase in speed enforcement through greater use of unobtrusive speed cameras and an increase in speed-camera intensity from 4,000 to 6,000 camera-hours per month (or one ticket annually for every three Victoria drivers);

  • A progressive reduction in the enforcement tolerance to 3 km/h above the speed limit; and

  • Intense public education using vivid, hard-hitting television spots.

Program results included:

  • Mean travel speeds dropped about 3.5 km/h on 60, 70 and 80 km/h speed limit roads;

  • 85th percentile speeds dropped about 4 km/h on all roads; and

  • Traffic fatalities in Melbourne dropped from 435 annually in 1999-2000 to 307 annually in 2003-2004, with the greatest reduction among non-occupant fatalities.

In contrast, neither speeds nor traffic fatalities changed significantly over this period on rural roads in the rest of Victoria. Johnston concluded that a systematic, integrated program targeting all drivers can reduce travel speeds and speed-related casualties.

Speed Management in the Netherlands
Fred Wegman, Managing Director, SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research, The Netherlands.

Wegman described how the Netherlands incorporates speed management as an integral and prominent component of road safety policy. Key points included:

  • Speed management begins with engineering methods, supported by enforcement and education.

  • The three engineering principles are:
    • Functionality: a small number of road functional categories;
    • Homogeneity: eliminate large differences in the speed, mass, and direction of vehicles on a roadway;
    • Predictability: provide easy recognition of road function and design among road users.

  • Engineering measures include speed zones (in which all roads within a geographic area have the same speed limit -- for example, 30 km/h in built-up areas) and roundabouts and speed humps at intersections.

  • Enforcement measures include increasing use of unobtrusive speed cameras in police cars and an increasing number of “automated section controls” on motorways and major rural roads.

  • These measures have general, but far from complete, public support.

U.S. Department of Transportation Speed Management Team
Earl Hardy, Highway Safety Specialist, NHTSA, and Davey Warren, Co-Team Leader, USDOT Speed Management Team, FHWA

Hardy and Warren briefly summarized the activities of the USDOT speed team and the USDOT Speed Management Strategic Initiative, released on June 16, 2005, to coincide with the Speed Forum. The initiative takes a comprehensive approach. Its five objectives, each with key strategies and actions, are to:

  1. Define the relationship between travel speed and traffic safety;

  2. Identify and promote engineering measures to better manage speed;

  3. Increase awareness of the dangers of speeding;

  4. Identify and promote effective speed enforcement activities; and

  5. Solicit cooperation, support, and leadership from traffic safety stakeholders.

Speed on Roadway Segments
Kay Fitzpatrick, Research Engineer, Texas Transportation Institute

Fitzpatrick explained the meaning of and the factors that influence a road segment’s design speed, posted speed limit, and operating speeds. Key points included:

  • Horizontal curves have the greatest influence on design speed.

  • Posted speed limits typically are set by starting with the 85th percentile speed and then taking into account (in order of importance) political pressure, crash history, roadside development, and roadway geometry.

  • On rural roads, 37-72 percent of traffic obeys the speed limit and the 85th percentile speed exceeds the posted limit.

  • On suburban and urban roads, only 32-52 percent of traffic obeys the speed limit and the 85th percentile speed exceeds the speed limit by almost 10 mph.

  • Environmental factors that influence operating speeds include horizontal curves, roadway access, parking, pedestrian activity, and roadway markings.

Speed Management and Engineering-Related Issues
John M. Mason, Jr., Associate Dean and Interim Director, The Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, Penn State University

Mason discussed engineering methods to manage speed. He summarized conclusions from the TRB Special Report 254, Managing Speed, to the effect that the current practice of setting speed limits was a reasonable balance between speeds and risks under favorable operating conditions and that speed limits in speed zones should be based on an engineering study. He elaborated on the concept of a roadway’s design speed, concluding that, “It is not customary U.S. practice to predict operating speeds as part of the highway geometric design process.” This leads to dilemmas, as operating speeds often exceed design speeds.