Traffic safety effects of new speed limits in Sweden

The effects of speed, both positive and negative, make speed a primary target for policy action. Driving speeds affect the risk of being involved in a crash and the injury severity as well as the noise and exhaust emissions. Starting 2008, the Swedish Transport Administration performed a review of the speed limits on the national rural road network. This review resulted in major changes of the speed limits on the rural road network. It was predominantly roads with a low traffic safety standard and unsatisfactory road sides that were selected for reduced speed limits, as well as roads with a good traffic safety record being selected for an increase in speed limits. During 2008 and 2009, speed limit changed on approximately 20, 500 kilometres of roads, out of which approximately 2,700 km were assigned an increase, and 17,800 km were assigned a reduction in speed limits.

The aim of this study is predominantly to describe and analyse the long-term traffic safety effect of increased, as well as, reduced speed limits, but also to analyse the changes in actual driving speeds due to the changed speed limits. Traffic safety effects are investigated by means of a before and after study with control group and the effects on actual mean speeds are measured by a sampling survey in which speed was measured at randomly selected sites before and after the speed limit changes.

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