Managing speed, a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), suggests that excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to 1 in 3 road traffic fatalities worldwide.

Around 1.25 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Studies indicate that typically 40–50% of drivers go over posted speed limits. Drivers who are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes. Road traffic crashes remain the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years. They are estimated to cost countries from 3–5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.

Yet, according to WHO, only 47 countries of the world follow good practice on one of the main speed management measures, namely implementing an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less and allowing local authorities to reduce these limits further on roads around schools, residences and businesses.

“Speed is at the core of the global road traffic injury problem,” noted WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “If countries were to address just this key risk, they would soon reap the rewards of safer roads, both in terms of lives saved and increases in walking and cycling, with profound and lasting effects on health.”

Speed management measures include:

  • building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic, such as roundabouts and speed bumps
  • establishing speed limits appropriate to the function of each road
  • enforcing speed limits through the use of manual and automated controls
  • installing in-vehicle technologies in new cars, such as intelligent speed assistance and autonomous emergency braking
  • raising awareness about the dangers of speed

Road traffic fatality rates are nearly 3 times lower in Europe compared to Africa. Countries that have had the most success in drastically reducing rates of road traffic death and injury in recent decades – Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland among them – are those that have addressed the issue holistically. They have prioritized safe speed as 1 of 4 components of the safe system approach, along with safe roads and roadsides, safe vehicles, and safe road users.

Managing speed was released in advance of the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, 8–14 May 2017. The week and its related campaign “Save Lives: #SlowDown” draw attention to the dangers of speed and the measures which should be put in place to address this leading risk for road traffic deaths and injuries.

View the WHO report: Managing speed (external link)