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What could be done to combat speeding on our roads?
Deborah-Claire McKenzie 99522679
Joined 10/10/2011 - 150 Posts

There have been many reports of motorists using the lack of traffic on the roads during the Covid19 lockdown to flout the speed limits and now with more traffic back on the roads there is a danger that some may continue to drive at excessive speeds even after things are back to ‘normal’.

Behavioural Science in transportation (understanding the behaviour and motivations of transport users such as motorists and rail commuters etc) is a fascinating subject which plays a big part in the engineering and design of roads and their ‘furniture’ in an attempt to gently persuade drivers to modify their driving behaviour to something more appropriate. 

There are many such psychological tactics in place to combat speeding but could we be doing more? What other engineering solutions could be implemented to stop excessive speeding? How do different countries tackle speeding on their roads? What could we learn from them? 
5 Replies
Stephen Powley 31969066
Joined 27/02/2008 - 42 Posts
It's an interesting question, especially framed in the context of COVID-19. This framing suggests that we are considering short term responses, as presumably behaviour will revert to how it was pre-COVID with the passage of time. In this case the ISA solution in 2022 would likely arrive after this immediate need has already passed. I'm not by any measure an expert in this field, so it's hard to comment on this, but it seems a short term response would require appeals to driver behaviour, such as information campaigns or penalties, as technological interventions would take too long.
If the question seeks to understand ways to address speeding in the medium to long term then Alan's answer is very relevant and it's good to know technological solutions are on the horizon. With my systems engineering hat on, I think it's important to explore the question further to understand the underlying needs of the various stakeholders.
There are a lot of tacit assumptions underlying the question and to develop a well-engineered (not necessarily wholly technical) solution it is important to understand the needs and the variables in play.. Why are we trying to reduce speed? To reduce accidents, reduce fuel consumption, nudge drivers towards other forms of transport that are too slow, ... Who benefits from a reduction in speed? The driver, other road users, the environment, nearby residents ... In what ways do they benefit? Lower risk of injury/death. lower fuel bills, cleaner air, less noise?... How can we reduce speed, what solutions exist or could be developed? What is the time frame for reductions, are there targets to meet or that need setting? How much do we need to reduce speed by? Does everyone's speed need to be the same? How will we know when we've done enough? How do political considerations affect engineered solutions?
Speed limits are a fairly blunt tool, they don't take into account driving ability, which can be affected by skill level, fatigue, distraction, weather, other drivers... In a world of increasing electfication, connectivity and automation, maybe speed limits could go up in certain circumstances. Perhaps autonomous cars will be able to safely drive much faster with zero emissions, so why do they need to go slowly? How is that affected by the human drivers near by? With connected vehicles, or vehicles with advanced sensors, could the car vary its own speed limit to adjust to local conditions?
Just some food for thought, I'm not advocating anything here.
Deborah-Claire McKenzie 99522679
Joined 10/10/2011 - 150 Posts
Hi Alan 
Thanks for your post on the topic, the ISA looks to be a useful piece of technology.  I'm looking forward to planning our seminar for next year and holding the third event in our series on the subject of Behavioural Science in Transport.  
Deborah-Claire McKenzie 99522679
Joined 10/10/2011 - 150 Posts
Thanks John for responding to this post and for your kind offer of help with the event later next year, we will certainly keep that in mind.  Here is a link to some recorded presentations we filmed at the first Behavioural Science in Transport event a few years ago, which may be of interest to you and other community members.
John Beirne 519717
Joined 12/02/2013 - 6 Posts

Your reply to Deborah's question is very interesting and informative with regards to ISA.  However, as a Human Factors facilitator I would be very interested in behaviour issues and what makes a non-compliant driver tick.  If you require any assistance with this seminar, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Alan Stevens 75389079
Joined 08/05/2012 - 1 Posts
I'm hopeful that Intelligent Speed Advice/Adaptation (ISA), which is a (partial) technological approach will be useful.  This will become mandatory on new vehicles from 2022.  It uses mapping and/or cameras to ascertain the current speed limit and then adjusts the vehicle speed automatically.  Although it can be overriden, it should provide a good hint to drivers. "All" we need is ~15% of vehicles to be speed limited to have a pronounced effect on overall speed in many circumstances.
Nevertheless, technological fixes are not the full answer - they will mostly help drivers who are generally compliant.  What we need is a better understanding of what makes non-compliant drivers tick. We'll be organising, next year through the IET, a seminar on behavioual issues in transport.  Our previous seminar has highlighted both the complexity and potential of behavioural understanding in tackling road safety issues. 

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