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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-10-006    Date:  September/October 2010
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-006
Issue No: Vol. 74 No. 2
Date: September/October 2010


Internet Watch

by Edward Sheldahl and Guan Xu

Sharing Resources to Manage Speed

Speeding is a factor in almost one-third of all fatal crashes and costs the United States approximately $27.7 billion each year. In 2008 alone, there were 11,674 speeding-related fatalities on the Nation's roadways -- that's 31 percent of fatal crashes.

Addressing such a large-scale issue is complicated because it involves public attitudes, driver behaviors, vehicle performance, roadway design and characteristics, posted speed limits, and enforcement strategies. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) speed management efforts require a multiagency, multidisciplinary approach.

Speed Management Initiative

In 2005, USDOT established the Speed Management Strategic Initiative, bringing together the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to work toward reducing the number of speeding-related fatalities and serious injuries. The work includes a combination of engineering, enforcement, and education activities. The primary goal is to provide guidance for State and local governments in designing and applying a balanced and effective speed management program.

Using the initiative as a catalyst, FHWA developed a variety of resources to assist States and other public transportation agencies in their efforts to reduce speeding- related crashes. These resources are available on FHWA's "Speed Management Safety" Web site at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt.

"Because of the gravity of this issue, it is always a top priority for us," says Ed Rice, a team leader in FHWA's Office of Safety Design. "We've been developing and disseminating resources for States and locals to use to help them get the results we are all hoping for: safer roadways."

FHWA Speed-Related Resources

FHWA uses its "Speed Management Safety" Web site to provide resources for researchers, engineers, law enforcement, educators, and policymakers to address speed-setting and enforcement issues. Recently added resources include the CD-ROM "Speed Management Information Resources" (FHWA-SA-09-028); Engineering Countermeasures for Reducing Speeds: A Desktop Reference of Potential Effectiveness; and Speed Concepts: Informational Guide(FHWA-SA-10-001).

The CD-ROM -- its materials also are available online -- provides a collection of resources from a variety of sources and covers many aspects of speed management. The online interface enables users to search by keyword or browse by title, author, or topic. The topic areas consist of engineering, enforcement, education, safety analysis, traffic calming, and work zones. When the user selects a resource, an abstract appears with the title, author, publisher, year, and a description of the resource. The abstract also contains links to a downloadable copy of the resource and, if available, links to a Web-accessible location.

Engineering Countermeasures for Reducing Speeds is a quick reference tool listing countermeasures, such as speed humps, traffic circles, in-roadway warning lights, and variable speed limit signs, and their respective effectiveness in a tabular format. Notably, the table includes a brief description of the countermeasures, before and after speeds, and the percentage change in speeds.

Screen grab from the FHWA “Speed Management Safety” Web page at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt.

Like the CD-ROM and the countermeasures tool, Speed Concepts: Informational Guide is designed to help engineers, planners, and elected officials better understand design speeds and their implications for setting rational speed limits and achieving desired operating speeds. The guide defines common speed- related terminology; explains the differences between designated design speed, inferred design speed, operating speed, and posted speed limits; summarizes State and local government roles related to traffic speeds; and highlights speed management and mitigation measures.

In addition to these resources, the "Speed Management Safety" Web site links to a free Web-based tool, USLIMITS, designed to help public agencies determine the appropriate speed limit to post on any roadway in the country. USLIMITS recommends a speed limit for a section of road based on road function, roadside development, operating speeds, road characteristics, and other factors. The tool also is available directly at www.uslimits.com.

To access these resources and find the latest FHWA information about speed management, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt.

Edward Sheldahl (retired) was the speed management program manager in FHWA's Office of Safety.

Guan Xu is the current speed management program manager in FHWA's Office of Safety.




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