Speed Limits, Geometry, and Driver Behavior

Project status

In progress

Start date: 05/15/16
End date: 05/14/18


Principal investigators:

About the research

Speed management has been an extensive focus of traffic safety research dating back to the 1960s. Research has generally shown crash risk to increase as the average speed of traffic increases and as the standard deviation of travel speeds increases within a traffic stream. However, research as to the effects of speed limits has been somewhat inconclusive.

This study investigates how speed limits affect driver speed selection, as well as the resultant crash risk, while controlling for various confounding factors such as traffic volumes and roadway geometry. Data are obtained at very high resolution from a Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) conducted as a part of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2). These data are integrated with a Roadway Information Database (RID), which provides extensive details as to roadway characteristics in the six-state study area (Florida, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington.) These sources are used to examine how driver speed selection varies among freeways with different posted speed limits, and how the likelihood of crash/near-crash events change with respect to various speed metrics.



  • Midwest Transportation Center