Fact sheet: Movement and place and speed management

Speed management is critical to road safety, supported by the Movement and Place Framework. This includes setting safe and appropriate speed limits, ensuring compliance and setting policies and using vehicle safety technology to alert drivers to their travel speed.  

Overview

Speed is unique in the Safe System because the ability to avoid a crash or the physical impact in every crash involves speed, since without vehicle movement (speed) there would be no crashes. All parts of the safe system play an important role in managing speed and achieving safety outcomes.

Speed enforcement is one of the key elements of an integrated speed management approach. It changes road user behaviour and helps to ensure that drivers do not exceed the posted speed limit, resulting in fewer crashes and reduced road trauma. To maximise its effect, speed enforcement is best supported by other measures such as credible and appropriate speed zones and public education that enhances knowledge of the dangers of speeding and strengthens community attitudes and support for speed enforcement.

Across Australia many roads do not conform to newer guidelines that prioritise safety and injury prevention. This is referred to as our legacy network. Speed management has a role to play in addressing the risk presented when roads do not have the features required to keep vehicles in their travel lane. However, before speed management principles can be considered, community acceptance of the limitations of funding to retrofit the network with safety features and a social license for reducing speed limits needs to occur. Otherwise, compliance with reduced speed limits may be limited.

Key measures available for effective speed management include:

  • Setting appropriate speed zones for safety, mobility and place
  • Road design and road safety engineering treatments
  • Enforcing speed zones
  • Influencing behaviour and road safety norms through public education
  • Vehicle technologies to support compliance and limit speeding.

Most people who are speeding are travelling above the posted limit or not driving to conditions. Many people that do speed, believe that they “speed safely” and that others that speed dangerously. Everybody who speeds endangers themselves, passengers and other road users they are sharing the network with. Speeding can be the first action of a fatal chain of events.

To succeed in reducing speed limits, greater understanding of risks associated with speeding is needed, creating community acceptance leading to a social license to support speed limit reductions as a credible road safety solution.

Setting speed limits

Setting appropriate speed limits is a critical component of road safety. The speed limit must take into account the standard and condition of the road, the function the road performs, traffic volumes and the environment. There are roads in Australia which are subject to the default speed limit (i.e. 100 km/h) that are not safe for a speed limit that high. For example, a number of roads in regional and remote areas are undivided, single carriageways where the default speed limit typically applies and these roads have been found to consistently have a much higher proportion of crash deaths than other roads. Some of these roads may even be posted higher, for example 110 km/h.

Special speed zones

Special speed zones are set in areas where there is a particular risk to vulnerable road users. These include school zones (40 km/h or lower during school) and areas of high pedestrian activity.

All states and territories have implemented 40 km/h speed limits in areas with high pedestrian and bicycle use and some states have introduced some 30 km/h or lower speed limits in certain areas, for example South Australia has a fairly consistent application of 25 km/h in school zones and the ACT has 20 km/h in the CBD's high pedestrian area. Infrastructure treatments reduce vehicle speeds at points of conflict in intersections, including roundabouts and intersection platforms, which reduce vehicle speeds at the entry point. These prove to be effective in reducing fatalities and serious injuries. 

The Movement and Place Framework

The way we move both people and goods; and where we live, work and socialise, affects the use of roads and how we prioritise their different functions.

Road authorities are increasingly adopting the Movement and Place Framework which identifies a road's strategic importance within a broader network, as well as its significance and community value as a place. This framework guides authorities in how to prioritise and integrate movement in areas where liveability and vibrant streets attract greater numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, and reduce the risk of exposure to crashes. It helps us create successful and safe streets and roads by balancing the movement of people and goods with the amenity and quality of places.

The Movement and Place Framework accounts for how the different functions of roads can be met to varying degrees. Motorways and movement corridors provide for fast movement with little or no ‘place’ function, whereas in vibrant streets, local streets, and places for people (e.g. low speed shared zones) the emphasis is on slow movement, and place is the primary consideration. This approach informs speed management and road design and is critical to the decisions we make, including those on speed management.

Enforcement

Monitoring, detection and enforcement programs are key to increasing compliance with speed limits.

Deterrence theory is the driving force for enforcement programs, including those which target speed. It holds that individuals will avoid offending if they fear the consequences and perceive they will be caught, the severity of the sanction and how quickly it is applied after the behaviour is exhibited. Deterrence can be specific (once sanctions are personally experienced people are less likely to re-offend) or general (the public will avoid the targeted behaviour once they have seen or learned about the possible consequences and the likelihood of being caught).

The adoption of the general deterrence model ‘anywhere, anytime’ is critical for the mindset of drivers to maintain a speed within the maximum posted limit. This includes through fixed speed cameras; mobile speed cameras; point to point speed cameras; and an on road police presence. 

Education and cultural change

Long-term cultural change is needed to make road safety ‘business as usual’, including through reducing community acceptance of speeding. The National Road Safety Strategy is taking a social model approach in its delivery, which will leverage influence at all levels of society to bring about cultural change.

While enforcement contributes to compliance with speed limits, education and cultural change is needed to reduce speeding in Australia, including through developing a greater understanding of the risks and consequences associated with these ‘everyday’ behaviours: The risk of involvement in a fatal crash doubles with every 5 km/h increase in speed over the limit in a 60km/h zone.1

There is also a need to build greater understanding and awareness of the physics associated with speed, with community acceptance for applying speed limit reductions on high risk roads, including in regional and remote areas. 

Education regarding the risks associated with speed includes through advertising, driver education programs, school education programs and raising social awareness through the influence of colleagues, friends and families to affect bring about behavioural change.

Workplace road safety policies 

Workplace road safety policies set rules around road use for employees. For example, some organisations set speed limits for their vehicle fleet (such as mining and trucking organisations), while others will ensure safe vehicles through their corporate fleet purchases or set employee policies relating to illegal road behaviour, including speeding.

These policies can in turn have an influencing effect, encouraging safe road behaviours outside of the work place.

Vehicle safety technology and speed

Vehicle safety technologies designed to assist drivers in managing their speed and keeping within the posted speed limits are becoming increasingly available in new cars. These include:

  • Speed alert alarm systems that alert a driver when the vehicle exceeds a pre-set speed.
  • Intelligent Speed Alert Systems, which determine the speed limit of the vehicle's location and alert the driver if they are over that limit.
  • Top speed limiters, which stop a vehicle from travelling above a set speed for an extended time.

1 http://casr.adelaide.edu.au/speed/vol-1.html