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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Chapter 1. Introduction

"NHTSA considers a crash to be speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash."

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Over the past decade, the United States has made great strides in reducing roadway fatalities, which fell from more than 42,000 in 2003 to approximately 33,000 in 2013. While the reduction in fatalities is significant and to be commended, additional focus on speed management is needed to continue the trend. Reducing fatalities and severe injuries on the Nation's transportation system is directly impacted by the effort agencies put into managing roadway speed. Speeding is a key factor in many safety areas, including impaired driving, unbelted drivers, distracted drivers, motorcycles, pedestrian safety, roadway departure, intersection safety, and truck rollovers. Speeding contributes to nearly one-third of all roadway fatalities, and this proportion has remained largely unchanged for the past decade. Practitioners and communities working to reduce speeding-related crashes need the latest information and tools to guide their efforts.

Bar graph illustrates the national trend in fatalities and speeding related fatalaties for the years 2003 through 2012. While total fatalities began declining steadily from 2005 (about 43,000 through 2011 (about 33,000) before jumping slightly (to about 35,000), fatalaties as a percent of speeding remained steady in the 31.0 percent to 31.9 percent range, although these figures fell during 2011 (30.8 percent and 2011 (30.4 percent).
Figure 1 - Trend in Fatalities and Speeding-related Fatalities in the United States
(Source: FARS, 2003 to 2012)


Excessive speeding is a key crash contributor that must be addressed in order to continue the advancement Toward Zero Deaths (TZD), the national vision for safety. Therefore, it is essential that agencies examine gaps and needs related to speed management and identify and explore new approaches to addressing speeding-related issues.

Roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes have been identified by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as the three focus areas with great potential to reduce fatalities. Many States have incorporated the three focus areas into their State Highway Safety Plans (SHSP) and, as the next step, FHWA is encouraging States to integrate speed management into these three safety focus areas.

To assist agencies with integrating speed management into their policies and practices, this report presents information on national speeding-related crash trends, promotes a speed-related crash data analysis approach, and recommends strategies and initiatives for integrating speed management into roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety programs.

Integrating Speed Management with the Three Focus Areas Can Help Transportation Agencies Move Towards Zero Deaths
Figure 2 – Integrating Speed Management with the Three Focus Areas Can Help Transportation Agencies Move Towards Zero Deaths, the National Vision for Safety

1.1 Speed Management and the Three Focus Safety Areas

Speeding is a complex problem, involving the interaction of many factors including public attitudes, sentiments and culture; road user behavior; vehicle performance; roadway design; traffic characteristics; weather conditions; posted speed limits; enforcement strategies; and legislative and judicial decisions. For a State or local agency to successfully manage speed, it must integrate and coordinate engineering, enforcement, and education efforts. The effort requires numerous processes and cooperation among multiple groups to effectively accomplish the goal of reducing speeding-related fatalities and injuries.

When a car strikes a pedestrian, the travel speed at impact directly influences the severity of the crash. The average risk of death for a pedestrian at impact rises as speed increases: at 23 miles per hour, the risk of death is 10 percent; at 42 miles per hour, it rises to 50 percent. at 58 miles per hour, it rises to 90 percent.
Figure 3 – Pedestrian's Risk of Death Relating to Impact Speed

Roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes collectively contribute to an overwhelming 90 percent of the traffic fatalities in the United States.2 Speeding contributes to nearly 30 percent of all traffic fatalities and reaches into all three of the focus areas.3 Nearly 40 percent of fatal roadway departure crashes and 20 percent of fatal intersection crashes are speeding-related.4 Although the percentage of speeding-related pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities is less than 10 percent,5 travel speed at impact greatly influences the severity of pedestrian crashes, as illustrated in Figure 3.6 Integrating a speed management component into each of the three focus areas is essential for State and local agencies to meet their safety goals.

1.2 Research Methodology

Research Objectives

  • Investigate current practices of speed management at State and local levels within the three focus areas of roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian safety focus programs.
  • Conduct an analysis of national crash data to identify speeding-related safety issues within the three safety focus programs.
  • Identify gaps and needs for effectively managing speed to improve roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
  • Develop strategies, approaches, and activities agencies can use to integrate speed management within roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety activities.

This project supports the USDOT Speed Management Program Plan,7 which was developed jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FHWA, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in order to improve public health and safety by reducing speeding-related fatalities and injuries.

The research for this project took place in multiple phases.8 In Phase 1 researchers scanned and documented practices and processes used by State and local agencies, focusing on how speeding-related problems and issues are identified; what approaches are used for speeding-related data collection and analysis; and which engineering-, enforcement-, and education-related speed management counter- measures practitioners use to tackle speeding-related safety issues. The state of the practice is summarized in Chapter 2.

Phase 2 of the research involved conducting detailed analyses of speeding-related fatal and serious injury crash data to evaluate the role of speeding in crashes or other safety-critical events. The first analysis included a summary of the characteristics of speeding-related crashes using crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the General Estimation System (GES). Researchers also explored the characteristics of speeding-related fatal crashes for the three focus areas (roadway departure, intersections, and pedestrians and bicyclists). The final analysis included existing summarized data from the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2) large-scale naturalistic driving study (NDS). The research team extracted baseline and safety-critical events from the InSight Data Access Website, comparing them to assess the role of speed. Additionally, the research team conducted a typology of characteristics for safety- critical events. The full report from the comprehensive data analysis is included in Appendix A.

In the final phase, the research team held individual interviews and safety focus group discussions with Federal, State, and local practitioners to investigate major speed management issues and to identify gaps for addressing roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety problems. In addition, researchers identified new or enhanced initiatives for integrating speed management into each of the three focus areas. The list of members for each safety focus group, the one-on-one interview questions, and the group's discussion agenda are available in Appendix B.

By using the information gained through these steps of the research project, the team identified strategies, approaches, and activities agencies can use to integrate speed management in their overall program and within roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety activities.

Some additional resources are provided in Appendix C that may be useful for transportation agencies to consider when preparing their speed management strategies. A list of gaps and needs relating to speed management, effectiveness of countermeasures, and speeding-related crash risks emerged during the comprehensive literature review, crash data analysis, and focus group interviews. These are presented in Appendix D.

1.3 Organization of Report

This chapter of the report, Chapter 1 – Introduction, provided an introduction and background information on the research effort that resulted in this document. It also introduces the relationship between speed management and the safety focus areas, including the methodology of the research.

Chapter 2 – Speed Management State of the Practice. This section gives readers an overall summary of the current state of the practice relating to agencies' speed management approaches and integration into the safety focus areas.

Chapter 3 – Program Level Strategies for Integrating Speed Management. Here, readers are introduced to program-level strategies on how speed management can be integrated throughout the planning, project development, construction, and maintenance stages, and how such strategies can be institutionalized through policy.

Chapter 4 – Integrating Speed Management within the Three Safety Focus Areas. This chapter provides an overview of national crash trends involving speeding-related fatal crashes and suggests potential strategies to assist agencies in addressing speeding-related crashes within each focus area.

Chapter 5 – Conclusion, reinforces the importance of integrating speed management into the roadway departure, intersection, pedestrian and bicyclist focus areas, while recognizing there are opportunities in research and other initiatives to further enhance existing speed management strategies.

2 FHWA Office of Safety Web site, "Focused Approach to Safety– Purpose of the Focused Approach." Available at: (accessed December 8, 2015). [ Return to note 2. ]

3 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2004-2012. [ Return to note 3. ]

4 See Appendix A, Evaluation of the Role of Speeding in Crashes and Safety-critical Events. [ Return to note 4. ]

5 See Appendix A, Evaluation of the Role of Speeding in Crashes and Safety-critical Events. [ Return to note 5. ]

6 AAA Foundation, Impact Speed and a Pedestrian's Risk of Severe Injury or Death (Washington, DC: AAA, September 2011). Available at: [ Return to note 6. ]

7 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Speed Management Program Plan, Report No. DOT HS 812 028 (Washington, DC: May 2014). [ Return to note 7. ]

8 At the start of this research project, the focus areas identified by FHWA were roadway departure, intersections, and pedestrians. During the course of the project, the focus areas were updated in July 2015 to roadway departure, intersections, and pedestrians and bicyclists. Memorandum available at: [ Return to note 8. ]