Nashville Bill Would Lower Residential Speed Limits

Photo: Walk Bike Nashville
Photo: Walk Bike Nashville

The dangerous streets of Nashville may soon become safer thanks to a new measure to reduce speed limits.

Nashville-Davidson County’s Metro Council is considering a bill to limit drivers to 25 miles per hour from the current 30 mph default speed limit.

The move comes after, 23 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in the combined city-county municipality, which sprawls across 526 square miles.

“We know speeds are the largest contributing factor to the number of crashes and the severity of crashes,” Nora Kern, the director of Walk Bike Nashville, told Streetsblog. “As we’ve seen a rising number of crashes in Nashville we need urgent action to address the issue.”

The legislation, introduced yesterday, is vague, but it instructs the Traffic and Parking Commission to conduct a study determining the appropriate speed. It follows a pilot experiment with lowered speed limits to 20 mph in three neighborhoods.

A study by the Traffic and Parking Commission found the pilots were effective in lowering average speed, on average between 1 and 4 mph. Following the studies, the commission recommended residential speed limits be lowered to 25 miles per hour citywide.

Kern says she expects the legislation to pass. Next up, her group will push for the safety initiative to expand to include a 30-mile-per-hour limit on arterial streets and for traffic calming measures — such as speed humps or curb bump outs — to be added.

Speed limits have been dropping in recent years in cities such as New York, Boston and Portland, where the changes required state approval. A study out of Boston found reduced speed limits, in themselves, lowered average speeds even without any changes to the streets.

A pedestrian struck by a car traveling 40 miles per hour has a 55 percent chance of survival. But a pedestrian struck at 20 miles per hour will survive 93 percent of the time.

42 thoughts on Nashville Bill Would Lower Residential Speed Limits

  1. The IIHS studied the results in Boston when limits changed from 30 to 25 mph, and the NMA is very grateful the IIHS released the actual results which prove our point. The mean speeds before and after were 24.8 mph for an actual change in the travel speeds of 0.0 mph. The 85th percentile speeds before and after were 31.0 mph for another actual change in the travel speeds of 0.0 mph. Posted limits have almost no effect on the actual travel speeds. Only engineering changes to the roads cause actual speed changes. The only result – and far too often the real purpose – of just changing the posted limits is to create for-profit speed traps.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  2. Governments to do not “profit” from enforcement fines since they are not profit making entities. Drivers who choose to violate maximum speed limits are making a choice to endanger pedestrians, cyclists, and even other drivers. And that choice should have a penalty and in the USA, that penalty is measured in dollars.

  3. Governments deliberately, cynically, and for-profit use speed enforcement versus mostly safe drivers in speed trap areas to enhance general fund and court revenues. Insurance companies support the enforcement in speed traps because the unjustified insurance premium surcharges to mostly safe drivers are almost pure profits because the safe drivers cause the fewest accidents and claims.

    Speed enforcement has become a multi-billion dollar for-profit industry targeting mostly safe drivers for “the dastardly crime of driving safely”. It is a racket that no moral person should condone or even tolerate.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  4. If posted speed limits had any significant effect on the actual travel speeds (plus or minus an average of 1.5 mph), you might have a point. But they don’t. Only engineering changes cause actual speed changes, a fact the for-profit speed trap industry depends upon for huge profits.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  5. Prove it. To the best of my knowledge Nashville is not contracting with any outside vendor doing speeding tickets on any of these streets. I have as many problems with privatization of law enforcement as anyone, but that’s not what is happening here. Nashville’s fines go into the Nashville-Davidson coffers and not shared with a camera enforcement company.

    If you know differently, you should provide that evidence. By the way, camera fines are civil penalties on don’t create points on records and aren’t shared with insurance companies. They should be–but it’s not happening in jurisdictions in the USA. This is an expensive parking ticket.

  6. NMA thinks drivers are best at setting their own speed limits but there’s nothing that indicates drivers should be able to crowdsource their own regulatory environment:

    After Boston lowered the default speed limit to 25 mph,
    the estimated odds of a vehicle

    exceeding 35 mph
    Down arrow
    fell 29.3%

    exceeding 30 mph
    Down arrow
    fell 8.5%

    exceeding 25 mph
    Down arrow
    fell 2.9%

  7. Its true Donald. I live in a mansion because we (city employees) work together to lower speed limits and ticket minor offenders. You really gotta get in on this sweet ‘enforcing the law’ money…oh boy!

  8. ESTIMATED ODDS, not data. The IIHS love unproven guesswork, estimates, probable trends, etc., etc. designed to make the reader believe something or more/less of something happened when the data does not prove the claim.

    85% were at or below 31.0 mph before and after, and the average speeds were 24.8 mph before and after. There was NO effect with the change.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  9. That is typical unsubstantiated IIHS editorialization.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  10. Significant parts of the total fines, fees, court costs, surcharges, etc. collected on Nashville’s officer-given speeding tickets go to the local authorities.

    I didn’t see anything about speed cameras – which are always for-profit rackets. As of 1/1/19 Nashville doesn’t use them.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  11. Including all forms of transportation on the roads, not just motor vehicles in their calculations would lower the speed limits 85% maintain if there are enough other users on a road. I think they should toss out the top 5% as unacceptably negligent. As it is they ignore the slowest 5-10% because they don’t have an engine.

  12. Beats your speculation based on agenda to allow drivers to set their own speed limits which don’t consider other road users than drivers. That’s blind, misplaced trust.

  13. You’d think the NMA guy (surely there’s only one employee here) might have better things to do than troll websites like Streetsblog into thinking he can convince committed urbanists to buy into unrestricted driver speed limits.

  14. Doesn’t beat 75+ years of unbiased research saying that the slowest 85% of drivers will choose the safest limit better than any arbitrary decree – especially arbitrary decrees put forth by those who will profit from enforcement of artificially low limits.

    The 1941 National Safety Council Report on Speed said to post limits between the 80th and 90th percentiles for the best results. Many studies since on both urban and rural roads agree.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  15. Citations, please. You’ve been caught misinterpreting, misunderstanding, and misrepresenting data so often you should provide links to peer-reviewed articles if you want to have any hope of ever being taken seriously.

  16. Quite so, and Executive Director of our non-profit NMA Foundation – 501(C)(3) – dedicated to research, education, and support for legal challenges to unfair laws.

    We have filed Amicus Briefs in support of two successful legal challenges that reached the US Supreme Court. If you believe law enforcement should require a warrant to use a GPS device to track your travels, then you will like the Jones vs the USA case we supported with an Amicus Brief jointly with the Rutherford Foundation.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  17. The NMA, reliably fighting against life-saving laws since they crawled out of the swamp. First it was highway speed limits, then it was drunk driving laws, now they’re trying to infect cities. Give him a minute, this unscrupulous mouthpiece will be victim-blaming again.

    Not really someone to look to for moral guidance.

  18. Speed cameras have been shown repeatedly to save lives. Google Scholar is (well, should be) your friend.

  19. They do with enforcement, until design speed can be lowered to match the new, safer speed limits. Your fringe, for-profit lobbyist group just doesn’t like law-breaking motorists being held accountable.

    Also, according a study in Sweden, a 1.5 mph drop in average speed could reduce collisions 3-5%. It’s not insignificant.

    You probably know that though. You just don’t care.

  20. 1941 NSC Report on Speed which I have only in hard copy. Send your email to requesting it be forwarded to me and I will send you a scan of that report. I have made this offer before to Sincerely, but it has never been acted upon.

    Solomon and Cirillo reports from the 1960s for rural surface roads and expressways respectively – easily found on line.

    Parker 1992, the best study ever done on changing speed limits on both urban and rural roads. You can raise a limit by up to 15 mph or lower one by up to 20 mph for a MAXIMUM change in the 85th speeds of 3 mph but an average change of about 1.5. The lowest with-high-confidence predictable accident rates were when low limits were raised to or closer to the 85th speeds. Noted many times before.

    Add hundreds of before/after studies on every type of urban and rural road showing limit changes don’t change speeds.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  21. Solomon’s work was about speed variation, not absolute speed. If you talked to any engineer who has kept up on the research since 1992, you’d know that. JCW has been corrected on his misunderstanding of research and his poor grasp of the facts by professional engineers and transportation researchers multiple times, but he doesn’t care.

  22. We respect different experts in the field. The basic principles never change.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  23. No, you are tied to outdated ideas about traffic engineering because you’re personally invested in a dogma that ruins cities and gets people killed.

  24. Most motorists are lawbreakers and studies have shown that there is no speed limit you can implement that they would actually adhere to.

    Futhermore, allowing pedestrians to cross streets at grade is a government money grab and should never be allowed. Not only do governments want to make it safe and convenient for able-bodied pedestrians to safely cross streets at the expense of motorists more valuable time, but they want to make it safe for even the slowest types of pedestrians: the elderly, children, and people with disabilities. These types should never cross streets under any circumstances.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  25. Well, let’s make all pedestrians prisoners of their superblocks! Now *that’s* and idea!

    Thanks for revealing to the urbanist community the real (and very funny) true mission of your parody of an organization.

  26. Remember, if you are in a car for about 15,000 miles a year, you will be involved in an accident with a fatality of a pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle occupant about once in every five thousand seven hundred years. We do NOT have a traffic safety crisis today with our 3+ trillion annual miles traveled.

    Can we improve to get the fatality rate lower than 1.16 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled? Sure, and a first step that would put us on the path to real improvements would be to take the profits out of enforcement aimed at mostly safe drivers.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  27. It’s only around 40,000 deaths a year in the USA alone, hundreds of thousands of injuries and billions in health care costs. NOT TO mention the shitty public health from lack of exercise that would be hard to quantify in cost.

    If flying had this safety record, no one would do it.

  28. And that’s only scratching the surface of the externalized costs of car use. Conspiracy theorists like JCW imagine the growing emphasize on other modes is a war on cars, but it’s just the result of economic realities. Cars are simply too expensive.

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