A pilot project on a rural road used multiple strategies to slow traffic including speed feedback signs, which show drivers how fast they are going as they pass.  -  Photo: IIHS

A pilot project on a rural road used multiple strategies to slow traffic including speed feedback signs, which show drivers how fast they are going as they pass.

Photo: IIHS

During a multi-pronged, anti-speeding pilot project on a rural road in Maryland, researchers found that average speeds fell 9% and there was a 78% reduction in the odds that a vehicle exceeded the speed limit by any amount. In addition, there was an 80% reduction in the odds of a driver going more than 10 mph over the limit.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF) joined forces to fund and spearhead the project.

The project used a combination of tactics — enforcement, engineering, and public outreach — to test solutions aimed at curbing speeding, one of the most persistent and dangerous hazards on U.S. roadways.

The multipronged effort took place on MD 367, a two-lane road in Bishopville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It focused on a 2.4-mile section of the road that is a popular route for beachgoers in the summer and is known to have a speeding problem.

Step one of the pilot involved infrastructure engineering. In July 2021, the lanes of the road were narrowed by doubling the width of the painted edge and center lines to 10 inches to help slow traffic. In addition, speed feedback signs, which show drivers how fast they are going as they pass, were installed in two locations.

Simultaneously, state highway officials launched a public outreach campaign. Flyers highlighting the lane narrowing, planned speed enforcement, and messaging were distributed to local residents and businesses. Signs announcing the enforcement and encouraging drivers to slow down went up along the corridor.

The third prong — enforcement — began in August 2021. Officials conducted four five-day waves of enhanced, high-visibility enforcement, which resulted in more than 120 speeding citations. The enforcement was accompanied by paid advertising that included social media messages, billboards, and advertisements in newspapers and on the navigation app Waze.

The results during the trial were encouraging: Average speeds fell 9% and the odds that a vehicle on the road was speeding dropped by three-quarters.

However, the effects of the three-pronged pilot program were temporary. The publicity and high-visibility enforcement efforts concluded at the end of August. Afterward, average speeds were just 2% lower than before the program began. And while the odds of speeding by any amount were 37% lower, the odds of a driver going more than 10 mph over the posted limit were actually 12% higher.

The study demonstrates that enforcement, engineering, and education go hand-in-hand when it comes to reducing speeding, say experts at all three organizations. The trio is planning a similar pilot project for an urban area for later this year.

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