Decreasing traffic speeds increases the amount of time drivers have to react to road hazards, potentially averting collisions, and makes crashes that do happen less severe. Boston’s regional planning agency, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), conducted a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that examined the potential health impacts of a proposed bill in the state legislature to lower the default speed limits on local roads from 30 miles per hour (mph) to 25 mph. The aim was to reduce vehicle speeds on local roads to a limit that is safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and children. The passage of this proposed legislation could have had far-reaching and potentially important public health impacts. Lower default speed limits may prevent around 18 fatalities and 1200 serious injuries to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians each year, as well as promote active transportation by making local roads feel more hospitable to cyclists and pedestrians. While a lower speed limit would increase congestion and slightly worsen air quality, the benefits outweigh the costs from both a health and economic perspective and would save the state approximately $62 million annually from prevented fatalities and injuries.
Keywords: health impact assessment, speed limits, crashes, injury prevention, air pollution, physical activity, monetization