In 2019, inappropriate speed was present in 6,049 road accidents, 8% of the total. In addition, 298 of them had fatalities, which represents 23% of all accidents. These data show that driving too fast continues to cause many casualties on the road.
The generic maximum speed limits are set out in article 48 of the General Traffic Regulations: 120 kilometres per hour on motorways and 90 on conventional roads for cars and motorcycles (the latter came into force in January 2019). For buses, trucks, and other vehicles the limits are lower.
However, as explained by the General Directorate of Roads of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (MITMA), it is not possible to travel at the maximum speed in all sections of a road. In some of them, the regulations reduce these limitations to precisely guarantee that driving and possible braking continue to be “in conditions of comfort and safety”, as stated in Technical Instruction 3.1-Ic.
This standard includes a mathematical formula that sets what the maximum speed should be on a certain section of road. It considers variables such as the driver’s perception and reaction capacity, the vehicle’s braking capacity, the coefficient of friction and the geometric visibility of the road, among others.
Speed reductions are applied in three cases, included in article 7 of Standard 8.1-Ic on Vertical Signalling:
- When visibility decreases. As, for example, on bends.
- At road crossings, even when you have priority. From the General Directorate of Roads, they explain that “there must be sufficient visibility so that drivers who circulate on the road that has priority can stop their vehicle in case another vehicle is crossing it unexpectedly”.
- For road safety reasons. The conditions of the road, the state of the road, weather conditions, a greater presence of heavy vehicles (trucks) or frequent retentions “may make it advisable to establish values that increase the safety of all users”.
The maximum speed at which we can travel on a road is also reduced if work is carried out in a section, as regulated by the Road Standard 8.3-Ic on Works Signalling.
The generic speed on crossings is 50 kilometres per hour. However, depending on the configuration of the population, and with the prior agreement of the owner of the road and the municipal authority, this limit may be reduced or increased.
This change “must be adjusted to the type of crossing, the urban configuration of the population crossed, the type of traffic supported by the road (long or short distance, number of heavy vehicles, average daily intensity, etc.), and fundamentally to the degree of coexistence between motorised traffic and vulnerable users ” , explains Pedro Tomás, Head of the Mobility Management Area of the DGT. Also remember that the only safe speed of movement in the case of coexistence between pedestrians and cyclists with motorised traffic is 30 kilometres per hour.
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