Top

Life Moves Pretty Fast, But Lowering Speed Limits Can Save Lives

“Life moves pretty fast,” goes the quote from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” “If you don’t slow down and look around, you might miss it.” What Ferris doesn’t say, though, is that if you slow down, you can also save lives.

On Jan. 9, 2017, the City of Boston’s new default speed limit will be 25 mph (from 30 mph). This is a lead other cities and towns will be able to follow, thanks to new state legislation. This past session the state passed a new law that allows municipalities to reduce speed limits on specified roadways in the interest of public safety. Cities and towns will be able to set default speed limits of 25 mph on local, non-state roadways in thickly settled areas and designate Safety Zones, which are specific roadways with a posted speed limit of 20 mph.

The new default speed limit in Boston is part of the city’s Vision Zero action plan that aims to eliminate traffic crashes that result in death and serious injuries. Familiar to many is the fact that if you’re involved in a crash as a pedestrian or cyclist, your odds of surviving a crash are much lower if speeds are higher. Less familiar is this information from the AAA, which shows how speed has greater consequences for older pedestrians – an important factor given increases in our aging population.

Risk of death for pedestrians struck by a car or light truck. Average risk across all ages with the dotted line representing 95% confidence intervals (left). Average risk for pedestrians ages 30 vs. 70 (right). Source: AAA (original citation and interactive version here: https://www.propublica.org/article/unsafe-at-many-speeds)
Risk of death for pedestrians struck by a car or light truck. Average risk across all ages with the dotted line representing 95% confidence intervals (left). Average risk for pedestrians ages 30 vs. 70 (right).
Source: AAA (original citation and interactive version here: https://www.propublica.org/article/unsafe-at-many-speeds) 

MAPC looks forward to learning from the City of Boston and finding ways we can expand such efforts as part of Vision Zero planning for other cities and towns in Massachusetts. For additional information and background, please explore MAPC’s Public Health Department webpage, where you can find the Speed Limit Reduction on Local Roads Health Impact Assessment (HIA), among other resources.

Let’s slow down, not miss what is happening around us – and save some lives at the same time.

Barry Keppard, MAPC Public Health Director