As we head full speed towards the end of 2018, one thing has become apparent, that one of the key factors for reducing road fatalities was to slow vehicles down, and so, as we head into 2019, that is precisely what the law will start to enforce.
The speed on secondary roads was one matter that the Director General of Traffic, Pere Navarro, vowed to control. These roads are the location of the majority of fatal and injury incidents. Reducing the maximum permitted speed should contribute to fewer incidents, although the responsibility still remains with the driver to comply.
A second area where focus is to head is towards the protection of more vulnerable road users, from pedestrians and cyclists upwards, to personal mobility vehicles, “toys” and motorbikes.
Towards the end of December, the Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, announced that the DGT were working on the reform of driving laws which would also reduce the maximum permitted speed in towns, to which a limit already applied in some towns and cities would become a national standard, specifically reducing the inner city maximum permitted speed from 50 kilometres per hour to 30.
Grande-Marlaska explained the broad social agreement that exists around this reduction in speed, and recalled that “cities such as Madrid, Bilbao, Zaragoza, Malaga or Valencia, as well as associations and user groups, have addressed the Ministry of the Interior to request this regulatory reform, which shows that there is a broad consensus on the need to protect the most vulnerable users of our streets.”
The announcement was made during the conference “From Zero Vision to Zero Goal? Global leadership in improving road safety”, organized by the Mapfre Foundation with the collaboration of the Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility Commission of the Congress of Deputies, and inaugurated by Grande-Marlaska.
The minister took advantage of the fact that the conference was dedicated to the “zero accident objective” and the road safety challenges to advance the measures in which the DGT works with the aim of reducing accidents and victims.
Among these reforms, the minister also stressed that in the near future the limit will be reduced on 7,000 kilometres of these conventional roads, where currently the limit was 100 kilometres per hour, i.e. roads without other restrictions where a hard shoulder of 1.5 metres or more exists.
The minister explained that this decrease in speed is in line with the European standard, stating how 14 European countries share a generic limit of 90 kilometres per hour, whereas another 8 restrict it further to 80, and one, Sweden, has a maximum permitted speed on these roads of 70 kilometres per hour. In fact, within the continental spectrum, Spain is one of the few with a limit of 100 kilometres per hour, a situation that “will be corrected”.
Explaining the reasoning behind the objective, the minister pointed out that it is not the purpose of the Government to “impose a certain model of mobility,” but recalled rather that it is “widely documented that the risk of dying in an incident on these types of roads is reduced by between five and eight times when the speed of impact with the pedestrian goes from 50 to 30 kilometres per hour”.
In this same line, Grande-Marlaska announced that in the first half of 2019 plans will be ready to reduce road traffic incidents involving cyclists and motorcyclists, who already represent, along with pedestrians, 46% of all deaths.
“The recent evolution of the number of victims on the roads, in Spain and in many other countries, has not been the one we would have liked, we have to act, and we have to be able to learn from each other,” Grande-Marlaska insisted, describing the model of road safety inaugurated more than 20 years ago by the Swedish Parliament when it approved the Vision Zero program, named for its purpose to end victims of traffic accidents.
Regular obligatory face-to-face training to obtain the licence, the bonus of two points on the permit for taking safe driving courses or persistent driving to a required standard are the most effective safety systems and are amongst other measures that the minister listed as part of the current work of the DGT.