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Roads Are Better. Cars Are Safer. Let’s Raise the Speed Limit

Discussion in 'Research, Studies, and Data' at netrider.net.au started by gunissan, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. Why speed limits in Australia need to be raised

    Road expert says why we need faster speed limits
    Should it be higher? Source: News Limited

    WE’RE told that every kilometre over the speed limit kills us. But one traffic expert believes on most modern highways, those claims are greatly exaggerated.

    Stephen Boyles, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas has published an article saying that with our modern safer roads and safer cars, the maximum speed limit needs to be raised.

    Current draconian speed limits on big modern highways are actually making things worse, he argues.

    “This difference in speeds is actually more dangerous than if everyone were driving at a faster speed.

    We’ve all felt the frustration of being behind slow drivers and annoyance at aggressive drivers weaving through traffic. Both of these situations are dangerous and make traffic worse,” he wrote.

    One idea he recommended, and was backed up by research from the US Federal Highway Administration is that speed limits should be set at the 85th percentile of traffic speed. That means, only around 15 per cent of cars should be driving faster than the speed limit — any faster than that the speed limit should be raised.

    It’s not only direct safety on highways Professor Boyles believes will be improved. He adds that important speed limits like school zones and those in the CBD would be respected more if highway speed limits had more credibility.

    1km/h over? Better get a lawyer son, better get a real good one. Source: Supplied

    Relations with police will also improve, he believes, saying, “rather than having to reflexively brake when seeing a police car, or worrying about selective enforcement of speed laws when everybody is travelling over the speed limit, rational speed limits mean that average drivers can simply go about their business.”

    In Australia, outside of the Northern Territory (where they have an unlimted max speed limit), our highest speed limit allowed is 110km/h, which it has been since the 1970s.

    In the last 40 years, new multi-lane highways full of safety guards, improved surfaces and run offs have been built throughout the country. Likewise, our cars have improved dramatically. Tractional control and stability control systems are standard on most cars, as well as Australia's increased appetite for AWD vehicles that help improve grip in the wet. Technology designed to make higher speed driving safer like active cruise control, which keeps a safe distance from the car in front is also standard on many modern cars.

    Sydney’s M7 is the perfect example. The road’s surface is fantastic, the visibility is perfect and the entire motorway is full of run offs, barriers and every type of road safety system possible. Yet the speed limit for the entire road is limited to 100km/h, leaving drivers in modern safe vehicles frustratingly, and dangerously stuck behind and between trucks. Having driven on autobahns in Germany, where speed limits are unlimited, accidents are few and the conditions of the road are much worse, this feels ridiculous.

    Of course, old country roads aren’t up to these standards and current limits make sense, but our big, modern motorways certainly are.

    Backing up Professor Boyles’ research, Mazda Australia’s managing director Martin Benders told journalists last year that he believed that the Australian police’s obsession with making sure drivers aren’t going 1km/h over the speed limit is creating bad drivers.

    “I have to say, having spent six years away [in Japan and Germany], I am amazed how bad the driving standards are in Australia, in terms of [driver] focus on not going 1km/h over the speed limit, it’s shocking,” Benders said.

    “You’ve got the police standing up and saying, ‘We can’t have distracted drivers’, and now we have got all these distracted drivers focused on not going 1km/h over the speed limit.”

    However, a Victorian police spokeswoman told news.com.au that, “we are unaware of any evidence or research that suggests that driving within the speed limit is a distraction.

    The use of mobile phones is currently our biggest driver distraction issue.”


    Roads Are Better. Cars Are Safer. Let’s Raise the Speed Limit | UT News | The University of Texas at Austin

    It’s the summer driving season in Texas and one of the busiest driving weekends of the year. This month also marks the 20th anniversary of Congress repealing the National Maximum Speed Law, which set speed limits across the country to a maximum of 55 miles per hour.

    The repeal of the nationwide speed limit in 1995 was a triumph of good engineering over good intentions and has improved safety on our roads.

    But that was then, and this is now. Nowadays, artificially low speed limits actually make roads less safe. In fact, on many roads in Texas and across the nation, the speed limit ought to be raised.

    The 55 mph speed limit was well intentioned. It was enacted during the oil shortages of the 1970s, and it was hoped that this law would improve safety as well as reduce fuel consumption. However, good intentions aren't good enough, and in this case the problem was that few drivers actually obeyed the reduced speed limit.

    Research shows that the speed limit has little effect on how fast people drive. Traffic engineers have tried all kinds of tricks — flashing lights, pink signs, cute speed limits such as 48 instead of 50 — and they all work only for a week or two until the novelty wears off.

    While many drivers ignore speed limits altogether, others do try to follow them out of a sense of safety or obedience.

    This difference in speeds is actually more dangerous than if everyone were driving at a faster speed. We've all felt the frustration of being behind slow drivers and annoyance at aggressive drivers weaving through traffic. Both of these situations are dangerous and make traffic worse.

    Laws should not make people choose between what is legal and what is safe. Instead, let's put some trust in drivers. Although we all like to complain about other drivers on the road, the fact is that almost all of us get where we are going each day without an accident. Most of us are perfectly capable of finding a safe speed to drive at even without a speed limit sign.

    Take, for example, Texas 130 between Seguin and Mustang Ridge. It has the highest speed limit in the nation, 85 mph. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to drive this fast, but that the road is designed to be safe at that speed and that drivers are free to select a safe and comfortable speed within a wide margin.

    Current best practices in transportation engineering — supported by extensive research by organizations such as the Federal Highway Administration, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the Institute of Transportation Engineers — is that speed limits should be set at the 85th percentile of traffic speed. That is, only about 1 out of 7 cars should be driving faster than the speed limit. Any more than that and the speed limit should be raised.

    Raising the speed limit also has other benefits.

    It improves credibility of the speed limit sign if it consistently marks a reasonable speed for most drivers, not the speed at which politicians wish they would drive.

    It also improves relations with law enforcement. Rather than having to reflexively brake when seeing a police car, or worrying about selective enforcement of speed laws when everybody is traveling over the speed limit, rational speed limits mean that average drivers can simply go about their business. No one should have to worry about being pulled over for driving in a safe manner.

    And finally, it improves respect for the law. Speeding should be seen as a serious matter, not a routine offense most of us commit every day.

    The bottom line is that speed limits should conform to drivers, not the other way around. When it comes to safety on our roads, good intentions are not good enough.

    Stephen Boyles is an assistant professor in transportation engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
    • Like Like x 6
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. #2 oldcorollas, Jul 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
    as they say "“This difference in speeds is actually more dangerous than if everyone were driving at a faster speed."

    we have that difference in speed now, why would that difference decrease if the people doing 20 over continue to do 20 over a higher limit?

    I guess for some people, watching 5 more minutes of news or Home and Away is THAT important :D

    how many accidents happen weekly on the "safe" M4/5/7/1 etc :) all well below the actual speed limit..
    • Agree Agree x 5
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  3. Hopefully the cops would find something better to do if we had higher speed limits. Ha, who am I kidding.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Our Fearless Leaders have budgeted million in speeding fine revenue. Raise speed limits? And deprive themselves of that? Or perhaps stop with the endless tirades of lies and bullshit? Hahaha.
    • Agree Agree x 4
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Point on differences in speed being a risk brings us to another of my pet peeves - L plater speed limits. Stats would be interesting, but I definitely think they have a higher chance of getting hit from behind on freeways... Or run off the road on country highways where overtaking lanes end.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  6. #6 oldcorollas, Jul 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
    "Roads Are Better. Cars Are Safer. Let’s Raise the Speed Limit"

    but drivers are still shit :D (both by choice and by incompetence ;) )

    "Research shows that the speed limit has little effect on how fast people drive"
    just like licence disqualification doesn't affect if people drive or not?
    • Agree Agree x 7
    • Like Like x 1
  7. I don't really agree that roads are better. Newer ones maybe. But has imposing a speed limit in the previous unrestricted zones in the Northern Territory saved lives? If not then bring back the unrestricted rule!

    I agree in the fact that there is too much distraction going on & I think this is more of a major cause of accidents than speed. If people followed the 'keep left in 80km/hr or over' rule & put down their friggin phones I'd be a happy chappie! Oh and head check!!!
    • Like Like x 2
  8. I think the News.com.au article extrapolating a Texas traffic engineer's opinions about Texas/USA highway and freeway conditions to imply that they're directly related to Australia's road and traffic conditions is a bit of a stretch. The USA 55mph speed limit was only 88kph, for example - most of our freeways and highways are 100-110kph (62-69mph), and I'd wager even our newly-duplicated Hume Highway/Freeway still has more interchanges and crossroads than Texas highways do. Letalone goat tracks like the Pacific Highway in northern NSW.

    (Not sure about the author's comments re: the German autobahn being worse than the Sydney M7, either. I drove there too - The derestricted zones are rare and reserved only for 3+ lane inter-city roads with virtually no onramps/offramps, outstanding forward visibility, excellent road surface, suitable horizontal and vertical alignment. Not an urban expressway in Sydney with 2 lanes and 17 interchanges in 41 kilometres.)
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Because international observation sees that the more realistic a speed limit is, the less the variation is.

    think about it. If a limit is 30 too low, then some will insist on sitting 10 below the limit. Others wil continue to drive at the reasonable speed.

    If the limit is set around the reasonable speed, then the window becomes narrower.

    Very few people drive a default amount over the limit. Most only drive over the limit if it is set too low.
  10. The only autobahn I drove on was a pile of concrete blocks and I wouldn't do more than 140 on it. But that was 20 years ago, in snow, at night, in a tiny Citroen, fully laden. Scary. The road from Brisbane to the Gold Coast isn't much different today. 110 is appropriate in that area. 130 on the Hume would be nice.
  11. The problem is of course that it will all get put in the too hard basket.... I am all in favour of variable and appropriate limits dependent on time of day on our major roads.

    As an example I come down Springvale Road every week day morning at 5am, at that time I see very few drivers and the parts that are 70kph do not reflect a safe speed to be doing - so guess what, I and anyone else who is on the road are doing 80+. On the odd occasion I am on later say 6.30am then the 70 is more appropriate.

    As another example of completely inappropriate limits look at Blackburn Road between Burwood Hwy and Canterbury Roads. 2 lanes each way, divided by a large nature strip with right turn out lanes provided - limit 60kph; it was 70kph but apparently that was to confusing for me to understand.

    The chances that any agency is going to look at individual roads and make appropriate decisions on them is slim at best.

    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. Many of our motorways are very similar to those in Europe, where the limit is typically 130 and have been for a long time.

    When you consider our "freeways" were bought in Datsun 120ys were still being sold and there were still lots of cars with 4 wheel drum brakes going about, it's pretty silly that the limits have never been increased.

    Christ airbags were only found on expensive european cars and ABS hadn't been invented yet. A lot of smaller cars were unstable at 120 km/hr.

    These days we should be talking about 150 not frigging around at 110.
  13. I see people commenting on news sites that this is crazy in Australia due to the lack of proper driver education. What if, they brought this in but one had to attend and pass a advanced drivers course before getting the license to drive at the higher speeds? Nah...I guess that would create more of a gap between the speeds on the freeway.

    Bah.....doesn't matter. My ninja loves to sit on $1.30 in any situation.
  14. There's plenty of higher limits in the USA though, I spent some time last year coaxing a big-assed mattress (i.e. camper van) along at 120km/h+ in Utah/Nevada/Colorado. From memory the limits was 75mph so no issues there.
  15. This type of article gets dragged out every year, yet nothing ever changes - regrettably from my POV. The limit on major motorways could certainly be higher without compromising safety. But all of our pollies are f**king useless these days, absolutely shit scared of doing anything. Especially when it may increase the "gasp" road toll.

    Just did Melbourne to Mt Hotham last week, then back. Had 3 cases of arsehole drivers who would not yield from the right lane at all at approx 108-111km/h in the 110 zone. Yes I'm illegally going 115 odd, but move the f**k out of the way will ya, its also illegal to hog the right and bloody dangerous too.

    Would a 130 limit help this. Hopefully so, some lane hoggers may not want to go that speed, but I still think you'd have many self righteous pricks doing 130 in the right lane and refusing to move anyway unfortunately.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  16. Current speed limits are far too low and should be raised. Raising the speed limit is seriously long overdue.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  17. Never happen. The government is in too deep with it's speeding propaganda to change or even consider other ideas.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  18. Well check this out.

    Until 2006 or some such, speedos had a plus/minus 10% accuracy. Today they are minus zero, Plus 10*% (*for simplicity sake) (which means that can overestimate your speed, but never underestimate it). Drivers that know their speedo is out utilise GPS or have calibrated it in their minds somehow and adjust accordingly.

    At any rate, on the same stretch of road, say 100km/h zone, with cars ranging in age, drivers driving along at 100km/h indicated speed could have a true speed anywhere from 110km/h to 91 km/h. Those that take the wipe of 5 message to heart are travelling anywhere between 86km/h to 105 km/h. Then there are those who are playing the system and driving at 103km/h indicated, so their speed could be anywhere between 113km/h to 93 km/h.

    So we have a whole bunch of drivers adhering to their speedo, driving at legal/fine avoiding/motor accident insurance encouraged speeds, resulting in a range of actual speeds from 86km/h to 113km/h - all righteously believing they are correct.

    That's quite a range of speed.

    However, following your speedo is no defence.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. How about nobody speeds for a few months. Government revenue from fines from speeding drops. Then they might look for other sources of income :) Right! lol :)

    I don't mind the limits where they are. I don't always obey them though ;)
  20. #20 oldcorollas, Jul 8, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
    so not everyone will be happy doing the new 20km higher limit.. some will always want to go faster and get around those "religiously" sitting on the (higher) speed limit :) regardless of what the limit is...
    that is until the limit is so high, most people don't feel safe driving "at the limit".
    eg if limit was 200.. most people will not want to go 200 on a normal highway here, but some will still go over.

    how many Aussie highways or freeways do not have T intersections or short onramps? that's a big factor in speed setting.. visibility and acceleration times etc flat chat, most modern cars and bikes will do under what? 15-20 seconds to 150? but will 4WDs, trucks, older cars, timid drivers?
    150 is about 42metres per second. 20 seconds is over 800m visibility required for someone to not slow you down?
    how much visibility/accel distance is required from a T intersection on a highway for it to be considered "safe"?

    the point of the US article (that has been rehashed so many times from the one study) was that speed limits should be set so that only 15% of the population are going above the limit. There is no evidence that a limit set in such a way, would persuade those 15% to drive at a speed lower than of their choosing
    should we set highways to 130, freeways to 150, (for example) and cops should ignore every 6th car that is going faster than that?

    as for default speed over, maybe not in Vic, but in NSW, many people seem to stick to about 10k's over, as they think cops will not pull them over for that. Then tends to be a gap and a few doing 20-30 over

    ps, I'm all for higher limits, but also realise how many shit drivers there are in our community.. they can't even not crash at 20k's let alone 130... and trucks doing 130-150 amongst traffic? good idea or? braking energy required for a truck from 150 more than double from 100

    how about the "but I concentrate/pay more attention to my driving if I'm speeding/going faster" argument?