Opinion: Lower speed limits are a triple win for reducing dependence on Russian oil, emissions and road injury.

  • March 18, 2022

A letter published in today’s edition of the Financial Times:

The move by the EU to phase out imports of Russian oil by 2027 is a welcome development in light of the barbaric invasion of Ukraine (“EU plans emergency measures to control surging energy bills”, Report, March 12). Urgent action is needed. We would like to recommend a measure that could be taken quickly and relatively simply to significantly cut oil imports in the EU in the short term: reduce speed limits across the bloc.

Because fuel use, climate-changing emissions, air pollution and the risk of a crash increase substantially at higher speeds, slowing down is always a smart measure. And there are precedents for this type of rapid action. Two years ago, the Netherlands successfully reduced the speed limit on motorways to 100kph during the daytime in order to reduce pollutant emissions. A car driving at 100kph is 25 per cent more efficient than at 130kph.

The cities of Brussels and Paris have recently reduced the urban speed limit to 30kph almost everywhere, and this will be the norm in urban areas across Spain by this summer. Analysis by the Brussels region showed toxic emissions, noise and crashes all declined since the lower limit was introduced.

Modelling carried out in the UK on 20 vs 30mph limits has shown that on typical car models, the lower speed limit flattens the acceleration needed for stop/start urban driving, which reduces carbon emissions — and fuel consumption — by a quarter

These times call for extraordinary measures. The EU, and member states should urgently commit to reduce speed limits to 100kph on motorways (80kph for trucks), 80kph on rural roads, and 30kph in urban areas. Three limits that represent a triple win for reducing dependence on Russian oil, emissions and road injury.

Antonio Avenoso
Executive Director, European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), Brussels, Belgium

Donna Price
Chairperson, International Road Victims’ Partnership (IRVP), Mullingar, Ireland

Filippo Randi
President, European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR), Brussels, Belgium

Barbara Stoll
Director, Clean Cities Campaign (CCC) Brussels, Belgium

William Todts
Executive Director, Transport & Environment, Brussels, Belgium

Jill Warren
Chief Executive, European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), Brussels, Belgium