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Unique Finnish winter speed limits interest Austrians

Finnish speed limits are alone in the Nordic countries in that they change with the seasons. This week drivers will have to slow down a little as the winter limits come into force across the country.

Luminen tie heijastuu aura-auton sivupeilistä.
Finnish drivers are forced into more cautious motoring during the darker months. Image: Yle

Most countries do not change their speed limits for the colder months. In Finland, however, the combination of snow, ice and very dark conditions forces a lower speed limit during the winter. From this week motorway speed limits will drop to 100 km/h, while other major roads will see an 80 km/h limit enforced. Both are a 20 km/h drop compared to summer limits.

The Finland Proper region’s Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY centre) recently received a query from the Austrian authorities keen to learn more about the unusual arrangement.

”They were looking at different systems and noticed that Finland is a trailblazer,” said Jaakko Klang of the Finland Proper ELY centre, who dealt with the request. ”I emphasised that in addition to lower speed limits we also work to prevent slippery conditions and follow the weather closely.”

Finland’s system was introduced after extensive testing of the effect of winter speed limits during the 1980s and 90s. That period proved the value of the current limits.

”On those roads where the speed limit dropped in winter, fatal accidents have been fallen by 38 percent, and accidents causing injuries dropped by 28 percent compared to the roads where the limit stayed at 100 km/h,” explained Klang.

A study of driver behaviour undertaken three years ago also supported Finland’s winter switch to a more cautious system.

”Unfortunately in that research it became clear that average speed limits did not fall when the first winter ice surprised drivers,” said Klang. ”That caused unnecessary accidents and interrupted journeys. When speed limits are reduced before the cold arrives, motorists change their driving style.”

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