ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

Testing the waters in relation to public acceptance of lower speed limits on arterial roads

Excell, Rita

Road Environment


Evidence since the introduction of the 50km/h default urban speed limit in Australia has supported Australian research indicating that reduced travelling speeds do lead to a reduction in casualty crashes.

Reduced limits in the local street network have been implemented with relatively little community resistance, but community attitudes towards the so-called ?harm minimisation? approach to setting speed limits, and hence lower limits, are largely unknown.

Speed and speed limits are already recognised research priorities in Australia and overseas.  Research conducted by ATSB, MUARC, CASR and other road safety research organisations clearly demonstrate the benefits of reducing speeds on arterial roads, however there are two schools of thought on how these speed reductions could be achieved:

  1. Reduce speed limits across the board and enforce the limits to obtain compliance.
  2. Educate drivers on the risks associated with exceeding the speed limit, and then enforce existing limits with a reduced enforcement tolerance.

In order to progress the debate on which strategy should be adopted, in April 2005 the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia commissioned market research to determine the level of community acceptance of lower speed limits on urban arterial roads, what impact drivers believed it would have on their travel time, and what attitude they would have to reduced enforcement tolerances.

Subsequently most of the other motoring organisations have followed suit and this paper reviews the results of this survey and the implications of these results on the introduction of Lower Speed Limits in Australia.