Speeding is akin to an addiction, and roadway design can be an effective treatment

By Eric Sundquist

Gerry Forbes, author of the Transportation Association of Canada’s excellent and too-little-known “Speed Management Guide,” suggests in a new ITE Journal article that speeding has some attributes of an addiction. He compares speeding and several addictive substances on dependence and harm (below), suggesting speeding is right up there with cocaine and heroin.

Probably more interesting than this provocative framing is the remedy Forbes suggests. He rejects the idea that speed management is simply a matter for law enforcement.

Under a Vision Zero philosophy, the traffic professionals must accept and advocate for lower operating speeds. Traffic professionals must be proactive in changing the environment and making speeding an unacceptable behavior, much like the use of illicit drugs. Speeds on the road network need to be better managed.
Speed management is the act of influencing drivers to adopt speeds that offer mobility without compromising safety. It includes a range of measures across all disciplines and should be inculcated into all stages in the life-cycle of a highway. From an engineering/ infrastructure perspective, good speed management results in reduced speeds while maintaining reasonable mobility, and permitting the right speeds on the right roads.

An example of the recommended approaches is “self-enforcing roads”—facilities that are designed to achieve appropriate operating speeds through visual cues, including those in the table below.

The brief article only gives a taste of this and four other recommended planning/design elements for managing traffic speeds. The aforementioned “Speed Management Guide” provides practitioners with much more information and guidance, and readers are urged to obtain a copy. It is hard to come by in the U.S.—even in research libraries—so we’ve posted the table of contents here to give a sense of the topics it covers.