This work estimates the total safety effects of speed limit changes on high-speed roadways by using traffic detector data and Highway Safety Information System data from 1993 to 1996. To gauge the total effects, the study applies a sequential modeling approach: average speed and speed variance models are first estimated on the basis of roadway design, use, and speed limit information. Then, crash counts (of varying severity) are estimated on the basis of the speed estimates, design, and use variables. The 4 years of data come from 63,937 homogeneous roadway segments along seven Interstates and 143 state highways in Washington State. A random effects negative binomial model was selected among several alternative panel and nonpanel models for count data.
Results indicate that the average road segment in the data set can be expected to exhibit lower nonfatal crash rates up to a 55 mph (88 km/h) speed limit. In contrast, fatality rates appear unresponsive to speed limit changes. Fatal and nonfatal rates fall for design reasons, including wider shoulders and more gradual curves, which appear to be key design variables. However, fatal and nonfatal rates move differently when traffic levels rise, with nonfatal rates remaining unchanged and fatal rates falling.
Kockelman, K.M. and Y.J. Kweon. Safety Effects of Speed Limit Changes: Use of PanelModels, Including Speed, Use, and Design Variables. In Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1908, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2005, pp. 148-158