Driving speed and the risk of road crashes: a review

Accid Anal Prev. 2006 Mar;38(2):215-24. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2005.07.004. Epub 2005 Oct 27.


Driving speed is an important factor in road safety. Speed not only affects the severity of a crash, but is also related to the risk of being involved in a crash. This paper discusses the most important empirical studies into speed and crash rate with an emphasis on the more recent studies. The majority of these studies looked at absolute speed, either at individual vehicle level or at road section level. Respectively, they found evidence for an exponential function and a power function between speed and crash rate. Both types of studies found evidence that crash rate increases faster with an increase in speed on minor roads than on major roads. At a more detailed level, lane width, junction density, and traffic flow were found to interact with the speed-crash rate relation. Other studies looked at speed dispersion and found evidence that this is also an important factor in determining crash rate. Larger differences in speed between vehicles are related to a higher crash rate. Without exception, a vehicle that moved (much) faster than other traffic around it, had a higher crash rate. With regard to the rate of a (much) slower moving vehicle, the evidence is inconclusive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Humans
  • Motion*