Skip to content

How Many Lives Could Be Saved by Speed Limit Reductions?


19 May 2021

During this week, that marks both the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week and Australia’s National Road Safety Week, the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) calls attention to the many impacts that excessive speed causes on our roads.

With more than 1,400 people killed and 50,000 suffering major injuries across Australian and New Zealand roads each year the economic, societal and personal cost of road trauma is staggering. Globally, road trauma results in the deaths of 1.3 million people every year, or one person every 24 seconds.

In high-income countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, 1 in 3 road deaths can be attributed to speed. It is estimated that 40-50% of people drive above the speed limit. For every 1 km/h increase in speed there is a 4-5% increase in fatal crashes. Pedestrians are at considerably greater risk of death when impact speeds are above 30 km/hr but evidence shows that the risk of death and injury reduces considerably when speeds are lowered.

ACRS CEO, Dr Ingrid Johnston stated “We have evidence from around the world that shows a significant reduction in road injuries and deaths. When Toronto, Canada reduced speed limits from 40 to 30 km/hr in 2015 they saw a 28% decrease in road crashes, and serious and fatal injuries were cut by two thirds.”

“We have seen reductions in road casualties when speed limits were reduced in many cities and countries, from Tanzania to Colombia, Bogota to Bristol, UK. There is no doubt that lower speed limits can save lives.” Dr Johnston continued.

Recent trials of 30 km/hr speed limits in Australia and New Zealand have seen similar results. Christchurch City reduced the speed limit in the central city area from 50 km/hr to 30 km/hr in 2016. This reduction saw a 36% decrease in reported injuries. Yarra City Council became the first Australian council to trial a 30 km/hr speed limit when it introduced the reduction in parts of Fitzroy and Collingwood in 2018. A year later, at the conclusion of the trial, the Council recommended that the reduced speed limits become permanent.

“We know that reducing speed decreases the risk to road users. We encourage the review of speed limits, particularly in urban areas, to assess how lower speeds can help reduce the number of people killed and injured on Australian and New Zealand roads.” Dr Johnston concluded.