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Flemings do not drive faster after the removal of 70 km/h speed limit signs    Jun 26, 2017

Flemings do not drive faster after the removal of 70 km/h speed limit signs
Jun 26, 2017

Flemish people do not drive faster since the 70 kilometres per hour signs were removed. That is shown by the research project of the recently graduated Transportation Scientist Alexander Vissenaekens.

From January 1, 2017, 70 kilometres per hour became the standard speed limit outside urban areas. Flemish Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts removed about 30.000 speed limit signs to make the Flemish roads less ‘confusing’ and, thus, safer. However, previous research showed that Flemings systematically drive too fast on 70 kilometres per hour roads. “In 2015, about 40% of all car drivers didn’t respect the speed limit”, said Prof. Dr Tom Brijs (IMOB, Hasselt University). “Speed limit signs continuously remind drivers of the maximum speed limit and thus control speeding in a certain way.”

In the framework of his master thesis, Alexander Vissenaekens examined whether Flemish drivers violate the speed limit more often after the removal of the 70 km/h speed limit signs. In cooperation with municipalities and police districts, he performed speed measurements on 25 local roads and five regional roads in Flanders. “On every location, we performed two speed measurements: one before January 1, 2017, and one in the spring.” During the first speed measurement, all locations were equipped with speed limit signs. Only eight locations were equipped with speed limit signs at the second measurement. “In this case, we were able to isolate and examine the effect of this measure.”

Easily adapted

This research showed that drivers – in a short time – easily adapted to the absence of speed limit signs. “Although we found considerable speed differences between the various locations, we can conclude that the speed doesn’t noticeably changes”, said the master student. “In general, the removal of 70km/h speed limit signs will not endanger road safety. Thus, the removal of the 70km/h speed limit signs can be continued.”

The researchers also searched for explanations for the speed differences. “We did a first analysis of the road infrastructure.” Professor Tom Brijs: “What does the road look like? Are there any buildings or trees next to the road that create a rather closed road view? Or can we speak of an open road view? Can we link the speed differences to the road infrastructure?” The first analysis did not reveal clear differences, but does indicate a possible connection between a speed increase, the openness of road infrastructure and the rural / urban character of the broader region. “Further research will have to give a decisive answer about this correlation”, according to the researchers.

Flemish Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts is enthusiastic about the first findings. “I’m delighted to hear that scientific research confirms that the removal of speed limit signs does not necessarily cause speeding.”

More information

Dr Tom Brijs: +32 (0)4 73 99 99 95 (available from 11:00 uur)
Alexander Vissenaekens: +32 (0)485 38 17 68 (available until 13:00 uur)

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The master thesis of Alexander Vissenaekens was supervised by Prof. Dr Tom Brijs and Dr Caroline Ariën (IMOB, Hasselt Univeristy), and the experts of the Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV).