Traffic Speed and Pedestrian Fatality:

NHMRC Road Accident Research Unit Relationship of Traffic Speed to Odds of Pedestrian Death in Collision 

Study conducted in miles per hour, converted to kilometers per hour and numbers maintained for absolute accuracy.

Pedestrian Death
Relationship of Vehicle Speed and Pedestrian Death

[Source 1: Killing Speed and Saving Lives, UK Dept. of Transportation, London, England. See also Limpert, Rudolph. Motor Vehicle Accident Reconstruction and Cause Analysis. Fourth Edition. Charlottesville, VA. The Michie Company, 1994, p. 663.]
[Source 2: Vehicle Speeds and the Incidence of Fatal Pedestrian Collisions prepared by the Austrailian Federal Office of Road Safety, Report CR 146, October 1994, by McLean AJ,Anderson RW, Farmer MJB, Lee BH, Brooks CG.]

Deputy Chief Coroner of Ontario-Traffic / Pedestrian Death Study

In a 2010 study conducted by the Deputy Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Bert Lauwers, said that traffic speed kills, and it is an inescapable fact, citing that statistics show a pedestrian struck by a vehicle travelling 50 km/hr is FIVE TIMES more likely to die than if struck at 30 km/hr. “The data are irrefutable. The higher the rate of speed at which a pedestrian is struck, the greater the chance of death.” (full report available click here)
Key findings in the Pedestrian Death Review relation to traffic speed and fatality on residential roads listed below:
67% of deaths occurred on roads posted with speeds beyond 50k/hour, and only 5% on roads below 50km/hr. For the remainder, speed was unknown.
• 76% of fatalities occurred in urban areas and 75% happened on wide, busy arterial roads.

Recommendations in his report include:
• reducing traffic speed limits to 30 km/hr on residential streets;
• adopting traffic speed limits of 40 km/hr on other streets unless otherwise posted

The City of Helsinki, Finland – Traffic Speed / Pedestrian Death Study

Results from a report produced by the Helsinki City Planning Department, Finland, states that “a speed of 50 km/hr increases the risk of a pedestrian death almost eight-fold compared to 30 km/hr.” The graph below demonstrates the collision speed and probability of death.

probability of pedestrian death

Probability of Pedestrian Death[/caption]

A common argument by drivers who are against lowering speeds in residential areas is an increase in travel time, however, the same study shows that a decrease in speed has very little effect while the probability of death for the pedestrian increases significantly. This is due to the fact that drivers, regardless of speed, will be required to stop and wait at lights as well as other expected obstructions. Therefore, speeding through residential areas accomplishes very little, while creating greater risk for those who live, walk and cycle in the community.

The Finish study found that by lowering the speed limit to 30 km/hr on residential streets, COMBINED with effective traffic speed camera enforcement, would reduce the pedestrian accident costs by 70 percent. The report concludes that 30km/hr in residential communities combined with speed-camera enforcement is the “cheapest and only quick measure to strongly reduce the number of serious pedestrian accidents in wide urban areas.” – source: Helsinki City Planning Department Traffic Planning Division Sebastian 02 Pasanen Driving Speeds and Pedestrian Safet(1).pdf

U. S. Department of Transportation
 – National Highway Traffic Speed / Traffic Safety Administration Traffic / Pedestrian Fatality Review
A report published by the United States Department of Transportation in October of 1999, stated that its findings were similar to what was determined by a UK report, which are as follows.
• 20 mph (32 km per hour) impact speeds: 5 percent death, 65 percent injured, and 30 percent uninjured
• 30 mph (48 km per hour) impact speeds: 45 percent death, 50 percent injured, and 5 percent uninjured
• 40 mph (64 km per hour) impact traffic speeds: 85 percent death and 15 percent injured.


Pedestrian Death - Pedestrian Injury Severity and traffic Speed

Pedestrian Death – Pedestrian Injury Severity and Traffic Speed

The above studies were included to demonstrate that regardless of when or where in the world a pedestrian – traffic speed and safety study was conducted, the findings support that 50km an hour is disproportionately more deadly than 30 km hour.
The Mount Royal Community has even a greater challenge and risk than the average community, certainly in Calgary, due to its proximity to downtown.

Mount Royal is a beltline community. When a driver is in a hurry and wishes to avoid congestion and lights on the collector roads, the option to drive through Mount Royal, (which many streets are marked at the same speed as collector roads) it becomes obvious why this community has become an option for those who are in a hurry to get to work, or get home.
** Final note – Airdrie has a 30km/hr on all residential streets as of a bylaw passed in the 1980’s. The only difference between school zones and regular is the size of the fine.

Additional Links Below (click to view):

Vehicle Travel Traffic Speeds and The Incidence of Fatal Pedestrian Collisions – NHMRC Road Accident Research Unite – The University of Adelaide



Speed and Accident Risk – European Commission

Ontario coroner urges city traffic speed limits to be cut to 40km/h when not otherwise posted (and 30k in residential areas) – National News

Pedestrian Fatality Risk

SWOV Fact Sheet

Fleet Safety – Government of New Zealand

Traffic Safety and Human Behaviour – book preview

Maynooth Cycling Campaign – Dublin

Airdrie – 30k in residential areas – speeders top complaint list

Road Deaths – May 2013 – How have Cyclists Fared?

Reduce Speeds Ontario coroner urges – CTV News

European Cyclist’s Federation – The Power of 30k Traffic Speed Limit (advocating reduced speed to 30km/h in every residential community in Europe

30  for Sunnyside (Calgary) petition website

“Those refusing to comply with traffic speed limits either don’t believe in the influence of driving speed on impact speed or just don’t care at all. Due to this ‘rejection front’ it must be proven in every country that the laws of Isaac Newton are true.”
FH Walz, M Hoefliger and W Fehlmann, 1983.

Forward your thoughts and feedback to

Below are photographs of streets in Upper and Lower Mount Royal, which are considered 50km/hr (standard speed unless marked otherwise), many lack sidewalks. I took them while walking my son to school, driving in lower Mount Royal, and on a typical run in the community.

Traffic Speed and safety in communities
small side street