Adherence to Speed Limits can Prevent Large Numbers of Accidents

May 2019

The Human Factor

The information given in this section illustrates the importance of protecting children entirely from road use situations that endanger their safety, wherever possible. In addition to this, other road users such as car drivers - the group most likely to be involved in accidents with children - can also make a significant difference. One of the ways they can do this is by adjusting their driving style.

The aim of most road journeys is to get from A to B as quickly, comfortably and safely as possible. Any obstacles to this goal are either grudgingly accepted, avoided wherever possible, or ignored completely, though the most common approach can vary wildly from region to region and depending on the mode of transport. While most car drivers will obey red lights, the acceptance of this traffic control measure drops drastically for cyclists, while many pedestrians treat it as nothing more than a recommendation. The risks of using cell phones on the road have also been common knowledge for some time, yet it is still all too common to see road users flaunting bans by writing and reading messages or browsing their playlists. The fact that they are endangering themselves and others by doing so does not seem to bother them. A similar phenomenon can be observed with regard to adherence to speed limits. In countries with a low density of monitoring measures and low fines, driving at 10km/h over the speed limit seems to be socially acceptable, and even 20km/h over is often seen as “not that bad”. Road users who stick to the limits are often tailgated, put under pressure and overtaken dangerously. Almost noone bothers to look into how severe the consequences can be if they exceed the speed limit even by a small amount. This can be the difference between minor or severe and fatal injuries, especially for children.

This problem can be illustrated using an example from a DEKRA crash test. In this test, a car is driving through a residential area on a road with a 30km/h speed limit. There a vehicles parked at the side of the road. A pram is pushed out from between two parked vehicles by a parent attempting to cross the road. The driver of the car is observing the speed limit strictly, recognizes the situation and reacts by slamming on the brakes. The vehicle comes to a stop just in front of the pram, resulting in a nasty shock for everyone involved but luckily avoiding a collision.

The outcome is very different if the vehicle is driving “just” 10km/h faster in the same situation. In the first case, the distance covered by the vehicle in the time it takes the driver to react to the situation is around 8.3 meters. When the car is traveling at 40 km/h, this increases to 11.1 meters. At 30 km/h, the vehicle comes to a stop after a total of 12.9 meters; when starting at a speed of 40 km/h, it will cover 19.3 meters before stopping completely. When the car hits the pram after covering 12.9 meters, it will still be traveling at 35 km/h. This is enough to result in severe or fatal injuries for the baby in the pram or any other pedestrian. Drivers who are rushing along at 50 km/h will cover a distance of 13.9 meters before reacting to a situation, and will thus not even have started braking by the time the collision occurs. As shown in the crash test, this means that they will hit the pram at 50 km/h, with fatal consequences for the baby.

Accident research conducted by DEKRA shows that pedestrians and cyclists – very often children – appearing suddenly from between parked vehicles and other visual obstacles such as advertising hoardings and switch boxes are a very common occurrence, and regularly leads to accidents. Many of these accidents could be avoided if drivers were to observe speed limits and stay off the cell phones and other distractions.

It is also important to consider the psychological effects for the drivers themselves. If an expert tells you in court that you could have avoided the accident by observing the speed limit and your decision to drive “just” 10 km/h faster has ruined the life of a child and their family, this is much harder to cope with than the inevitable punishment. So those who want to get from A to B quickly, comfortably and safely should place the greatest emphasis on safety – otherwise they risk not getting there at all.

During the DEKRA test, the pram was captured at a speed of 50 km/h within the reaction time and got flung away several meters:

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