The Road Administration (Maanteeamet) is analysing the effects of reducing truck speed limits to 80 km/h, the need for metal barriers between lanes, and the closure of level railroad crossings at sites where another, multi-level crossing is closer than two kilometers. These constitute just three of 150 proposals to make Estonian traffic safer.
Whereas in the 1990s, 200-300 people died annually in traffic. Last year, the number of deaths in traffic stood at 52. Erik Ernits, head of strategic planning department of the Road Administration, said road safety will not be improved by revolutionary changes, as it requires a mixture of different actions. The administration has been assigned 150 goals over the next four years, which should help improve in one way or another.
The Road Administration will also assess if the speed limits on Estonian roads are appropriate. According to Ernits, road users must understand the reason for restrictions. He added that in some places there could be more restrictions, in some places the speed limit might be raised.
Ernits said: "The review of such a large amount of restrictions means that we have done something wrong in our current practice. I hope the assessment will not bring large-scale changes, but true, in some places speed limits might increase."
Reducing speed limits for trucks
The Road Administration will specifically focus on heavy trucks. An assessment of lowering truck speed limits to 80 km/h is planned.
Ernits said: "One of the subjects of our analysis is if the lowering of speed limits for trucks on our 2+1 sections will make passing them easier for other vehicles."
According to Ernits, environmental effects play a role in the coming assessment.
He added: "The higher the speed, the higher the drag, which will grow exponentially. And with that, fuel consumption."
An error points system is in development to influence road users. According to Ernits, a primary version of it is ready but it will not reach the public yet. However, this is not the first time such systems are developed in Estonia. He acknowledges the fundamental errors of the versions so far, which were mainly focused on setting punishments.
He added: "The actual goal of the system is to pick out the drivers who have had problems in traffic and to help them become better. There have to be rehabilitation programs connected to the system."
Traffic barriers between two-lane roads
Another goal of the Road Administration is to transform the traffic environment of Estonia. The presence of crash barriers between road lanes is currently being tested.
Ernits said: "We have sections where accidents regarding overtaking and driving against traffic are standing out. A barrier is a method to prevent them quite efficiently."
Ernits acknowledges the potential problems barriers will bring – from emergency vehicles to pedestrians, who will not have enough room.
The plans will also assess railroad crossings. The state plans to close all level crossings that have a multi-level crossing within two kilometers by 2030.
Ernits said: "Our practice shows that if there is a crossing, there is the probability that something will happen. With smaller crossings, different security measures are also often not used, starting with traffic lights and ending with barriers."
The head of strategic development acknowledges that if a crossing has 200 cars crossing it daily, there is no need for large investments, especially considering that crossings with 30,000 traversing daily also have to be made safer.
He concluded: "If there is an adequate alternative to the crossing, we will, unfortunately, have to accept that for some, the situation will become more complicated, they have to take another route. But looking at it from their perspective, the crossing will also become safer.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste