The Politics of Speed

The Politics of Speed: Local and regional actors' views on speed limits, traffic safety and mobility in Sweden

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In most European countries, the often difficult policy process of setting and implementing speed limits on specific roads is delegated to public administration on local and regional levels. The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze the perspectives and priorities of regional actors, specifically planners and elected officials within public administration, concerning their everyday work in setting speed limits within a Swedish county. The analysis indicates significant conflicts among actors with regard to the priorities, politics and goals that should guide the setting of speed limits on regional and local roads. Some groups of actors support a mobility perspective that gives priority to relatively high speed limits in the interests of accessibility and mobility. This perspective is, however, in sharp contrast to the views of other actors, who share a commitment to improve traffic safety through lower speed limits, thereby adopting what can be called a traffic safety perspective. The paper concludes with a discussion of the politics and power relations among actors and their implications for our understanding of decision-making on the issue of speed limits.

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