In the context of the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, WHO has released Managing speed. The document highlights that excessive and inappropriate speed is among the key risks for road traffic deaths and injuries, contributing to around one third of road traffic fatalities in high-income countries and up to one half in low- and middle-income countries.
Safe speeds are among the four main elements of the “safe systems approach” to road safety, along with safe roads and roadsides, safe vehicles and safe road users.
Approaches to managing speed include building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic such as roundabouts and speed bumps; establishing speed limits to the function of each road; enforcing speed limits; installing in-vehicle technologies such as intelligent speed assistance; and raising awareness about the dangers of speeding through campaigns. Countries which have implemented the safe systems approach – including interventions to ensure safer speeds – are those which have made the most progress in saving lives on their roads.
Road transport systems have contributed enormously to the development of most countries in the world. By improving people’s ability to access education, employment and health care and enhancing the efficiency of businesses to provide goods and services, such systems have resulted in a number of positive economic and social benefits.
However, there are also adverse consequences resulting from ever expanding road transport systems and the services they facilitate. Rapid motorization has frequently been accompanied by corresponding increases in road traffic deaths and injuries, while many urban areas now face the additional challenges of increasing levels of air pollution ¬ and associated rises in respiratory diseases and increasing congestion, which in turn are linked to reduced levels of physical activity and other health consequences.
Over the last decade, along with greater global attention to reducing speed as part of efforts to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries, there has been a growing movement often instigated at local level ¬concerned with strategies to manage speed in communities, and the potential benefits in terms of safer and more liveable streets.