Gravel road overhaul will cut speed limit to 70 km/h in some cases

A gravel road in rural Estonia.
A gravel road in rural Estonia. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Speed limits on gravel roads in Estonia, mostly to be found in rural areas, are to be reduced to 70 kilometers-per-hour, down from the current 90 kilometers-per-hour, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday.

Ain Tatter, head of the road and rail department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications told AK that: "At the suggestion of traffic safety experts, the speed was reduced to 70 km/h because the gravel roads have a loose surface with poor grip, meaning as a general rule it can be said that it is not safe to drive on gravel roads at 90 km/h "

The move comes as part of a general overhaul the ministry is carrying out with the road network, though the actual speed limit set is down to the road owner in any case – be it a local government, the relevant state agency or a private owner.

One resident of Ojamaa, in Ida-Viru County, Heli Vilumets, has lived close to a gravel road for 30 years, and would have seen a surge in the number of vehicles using the road, not to mention their engine power, during that time.

Vilumets said she does not think speed limit reductions will have the required effects, since drivers tend to disregard the signs, while a speed of 70 km/h will not solve the summer dust issue either.

"In fact, some drivers shoot around at about 100 km/h here. When they pick up speed at 600m from, and then brake just before, the nearby bridge, all the dust ends up in our yard, even though our house is 200m away from the road," Vilumets said.

Blacktopping minor roads would help, she felt, with speed bumps an optional extra if this did not have the desired result.

Ain Tatter said that the updated of the regulation mostly concerns under-repair or newly-constructed roads; signage will not be placed on all existing gravel roads in any case, he said.

Moreover, local authorities and the Transport Administration (Transpordiamet) also set the actual speed limit.

The main aspect is more effective road maintenance, he added.

Erkki Vaheoja, head of the infrastructure service development department of the Transport Administration, told AK that while the goal was to have dust-free gravel roads by 2030, a certain dose of realism was also required.

For one thing, only roads with a throughflow of 50 or more vehicles daily will be looked at, he said – while there are tens of thousands of kilometers of gravel roads with lower levels of traffic than that, he said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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