1997-02-24

Autobahn Fatality Rates and General Speed Limits: What Really Happened in 1973/74? 970280

Data collected from public and private institutions and officials (including universities, libraries, auto companies and traffic police in five countries during two months and 10,000+km of mostly autobahn travel in Europe) is presented and reviewed following micro/macro economic theory and the ‘3P’ principle* of correlation analysis. (*Plausible Physical Path) The results demonstrate that both the major reductions in autobahn fatality rates throughout Europe in the '72 to '75 period, and the horrific increases during the decade previous to that, can be adequately explained by the business investment activity (or lack thereof) in the sequential phases of the business cycle. The general speed limits imposed by most countries (in late '73) thus played an insignificant role in reducing accidents. Some evidence is presented supporting the hypothesis that the 3P connecting the fatality rate with the business cycle is the degree of driver distraction associated with the latter. It is suggested that following the German example of providing specific and timely information to the driver (including local, and variable, speed limits as a last, rather than a first, resort) is a more effective route to safer highways.

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