Spanish Traffic Speed Reduction Brings Quick Fall in Fatalities

Madrid, Spain

A speed reduction to 30kmh for traffic on many Spanish urban roads has come with a substantial drop in road deaths, including reduced fatalities for particularly vulnerable road users.

While authorities have warned it’s too early to make sweeping evaluations, initial figures since the speed limits were lowered have shown a 25% fall in fatalities in 2021 compared to 2019, which is being used as the reference year.

The speed limit for all single-lane roads in Spanish towns and cities was cut from 50kmh to 30kmh in May 2021, after the change was flagged in Spanish road law changes as far back as 2014.

The laws were eventually changed after 2019 statistics showed there were more vulnerable road users killed – such as cyclists, pedestrians and seniors – than fatalities for people travelling in vehicles.

One year after the reduced limits were implemented, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) met with the country’s General Directorate of Traffic to analyse the speed reduction’s effectiveness in curbing serious collisions.

Statistics showed the 25% reduction equated to 97 fewer deaths, with a greater fall for vulnerable road users. There was a 32% decrease for pedestrian fatalities, 48% for cyclists and 40% for people aged over 64.

One Spanish city, Bilbao, went even further than the national standard and extended the 30kmh speed limit for all roads in the city centre, including two-lane roads.

An article in The Leader quotes Spanish director general of traffic Pere Navarro, who said it would take at least three years of data to show if the measures had achieved their objectives.

He said in the meantime, the lower limits would bring further benefits, including reduced traffic, noise and pollution, while increasing citizens’ quality of life.

Salt Lake City Reduction to Protect Pedestrians

Car dominated US city Salt Lake City has dropped the speed limit of many of its urban roads from 25 miles per hour (40.23kmh) to 20mph (32.19kmh) to help protect vulnerable road users.

“Only about 4% of the crashes in our city involve bicycles and pedestrians, but they make up more than 46% of all the fatalities”

that we have here,” according to city council engineer Dan Bergenthal in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Sweet Streets Salt Lake City, an organiaation advocating for safer streets, stepped up its campaign for 20mph speed limits earlier this month, after five people were struck and killed by vehicles in the region, including three children, in the preceding week.

The article quotes Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who said: “Salt Lake City has long been a vehicle-first city, but as we grow and our population density increases — as more pedestrians walk and bike through our neighborhoods and on our streets — we need to evolve.

“We must put the safety of pedestrians first.”

The mayor announced two additional measures to prevent pedestrian fatalities: a new Safe Streets task force comprising city government, police and transportation officials to identify particularly dangerous roadways, and a partnership between the city and the Utah Department of Transportation’s Zero Fatalities education program.

The Safe Streets task force will investigate traffic patterns, crash trends and citation data to make recommendations for immediate actions and long-term policies — such as additional speed bumps or lower speed limits.

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Should similar traffic speed reductions be implemented in Australia?

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