Creating a Speed Management Program

Speed management programs and plans provide a framework for how to create safety and mobility for all road users in the context of specific road conditions and across a vast road network. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs, Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 19 states “speed management involves a balanced program effort that includes: defining the relationship between speed, speeding, and safety; applying road design and engineering measures to obtain appropriate speeds; setting speed limits that are safe and reasonable, applying enforcement efforts and appropriate technology that effectively address speeders and deter speeding; marketing, communication, and educational messages that focus on high-risk drivers; and soliciting the cooperation, support, and leadership of traffic safety stakeholders.” The FHWA Speed Management Guidebook states that a speed management program is a strategy to address concerns of undesirable speeds at a specific location, along a corridor, or within a road network.


Speed Management Attributes

Speed management programs and plans guide and implement speed management activities that should be pursued across multiple jurisdictions and/or departments responsible for speed and safety. At a minimum, departments and partners with the jurisdiction that handle policy, planning, engineering, enforcement, education, public health and maintenance should be involved in creating a speed management program and plan. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Speed Management Guidebook states that the program should be comprehensive and should address all factors that influence speeding: public awareness, user behavior, roadway design, surrounding land uses, traffic conditions, posted speed limits, and enforcement. Further, speed management programs should include the following attributes:

  • Data collection from crash data, roadway data, and road user data
  • Applying road design, traffic operations, and safety measures
  • Setting appropriate, rational, desirable, and safe speed limits
  • Supportive enforcement efforts
  • Effectively using media and marketing
  • Cooperation of all traffic safety stakeholders, both public and private
  • Identify where speeds may be too high for multimodal transportation

The 4 Es of Safety

A speed management program should include, at a minimum engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency services, commonly referred to as the 4 Es of safety:

4 Es of Safety
Adapted from:


  • Engineering is used to establish speed limits that are appropriate to the primary purpose of the road; provide a balance between mobility and safety for all roadway users; design roads that produce desired speeds while meeting regulatory requirements; and introduce physical road geometries and physical elements to create a road that induces drivers to travel at the desired speed. 
  • Enforcement encompasses the actions taken by authorities to ensure that drivers are complying with the legal posted speed limit. While traditional manual police enforcement at spot locations is the more commonly used strategy, automated speed enforcement is becoming more acceptable as a proven method to reduce illegal speeding while allocating law enforcement resources to more critical matters.
  • Education entails providing information to drivers about speeds and safety, and increasing awareness of engineering and enforcement measures to reduce speeding.
  • Emergency services involve quick response of all necessary emergency personnel to a scene to minimize the severity of a crash.

Some speed management programs are considering other Es in their speed management plans. Jurisdictions sometimes consider evaluation, environment, and equity when appropriate in a local community.

Creating a Speed Management Program

The process for implementing a speed management program is described in several resources. With some variations, these resources outline the following elements of a successful speed management program:

  • Develop stakeholder working group to establish the goals of the program, determine timelines for action, set meeting schedules, communicate materials and methods to the public, and evaluate the program for changes. A working group comprised of stakeholders from public agencies, elected officials, and community partners will help foster a long-term commitment and build momentum for implementation.
  • Identify speeding related issues through data collection of crash records, crash types, fatality rates, citation history, road conditions, public information act requests, citizen concerns, public surveys, and speed studies. This activity also includes assessing if speeds are excessive and if speed limits are appropriate for the conditions through speed surveys.
  • Identify countermeasures that are effective in managing speeds and reducing the incidence and severity of speed-related crashes. These countermeasures can be one or more of the many engineering, enforcement and education options noted in the FHWA Speed Management Toolkit.
  • Develop an action plan for the program that can include a change in speed limits for designated roads and implementation of speed reduction projects where speeding is a problem. Public support, aided by the stakeholder group, is critical to implementing a successful action plan.
  • Evaluate the progress of the program through the evaluation of individual projects and overall program based on metrics set forth at the beginning of a program.

An outcome of a speed management program should be a plan of action which delineates specific activities to be pursued. In the World Health Organization’s Speed Management: A Road Safety Manual for Decision-Makers and Practitioners guidance is provided on how to design and implement a speed management system and specifically how to prepare a plan of action. The FHWA Safety Program’s Speed Management Action Plan Template, Problem Identification, Solutions, Implementation, Evaluation includes a template that can be used by state and local agencies in developing jurisdiction-specific speed management plans. Additionally, FHWA provides technical assistance to jurisdictions needing assistance in creating a speed management plan through the Roadway Safety Professional Capacity Building Technical Assistance program. Below are a few local, regional and state speed management action plans from North America that can be used as examples:

You can learn more about recent efforts to create speed management programs in the FHWA/ITE Noteworthy Speed Management Practices guide. It provides an avenue of information for practitioners, summarizing eight case studies that highlight noteworthy practices over a range of speed management issues.