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Increased speed limit leads to fewer road accidents in Denmark

Two-year study reveals an increase in speed limits decreased the number of road accidents.

Speeding kills, or so we’re told. It would seem the reality, however, is much less black and white. A report by the Danish Road Directorate Vejdirektoratet found that increasing the speed limit actually had a positive effect on the number of road accidents.

The two-year study looked at the effect increasing the limit on rural roads from 80km/h (50mph) to 90km/h (56mph). Since 2011, accident numbers have fallen because the difference between fastest and slowest cars was reduced, resulting in less overtaking.

Slower drivers became faster with the new higher speed limit in place, while the fastest 15 per cent of drivers only drove one km/h faster, going against the thinking that a higher limit means everyone automatically drives like a lunatic.

“If there is a large difference between speeds, then more people will attempt to overtake, so the more homogeneous we can get the speeds on the two-lane roads, the safer they will become,” Vejdirektoratet spokesperson Rene Juhl Hollen commented.

Backing up the claim are Danish motorway figures. Fatalities have decreased in the country since the speed limit was increased from 110km/h (68mph) to 130km/h (81mph) nearly a decade ago.

Danish traffic officer Erik Mather said of the findings: “The police are perhaps a little biased on this issue, but we’ve had to completely change our view now that the experiment has gone on for two years.”

Official accident statistics reveal two-lane roads in Denmark accounted for two-thirds of all road deaths. Speed was said to be a contributing factor in half of all road deaths.

Although the Danish traffic study, which will go on until 2015, represents the experience of one country, the figures are certainly positive. The question is whether upping, say, the UK’s 70mph speed limit to 80mph would have the same effect?

Whatever the answer, it seems as if the decision has been made up already. A 60mph speed limit has been proposed on stretches of two UK motorways. In one case the government is decreasing the speed limit to help with air pollution in a bid to comply with EU regulations.

Could the UK government learn something from our Danish counterparts? Let us know.

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