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Turkish experts criticize gov't plan to raise speed limits

ISTANBUL - Milliyet | 8/12/2009 12:00:00 AM |

The Interior Ministry's plan to raise the speed limit is being criticized by experts who say the country's existing road infrastructure cannot handle the change.

The Interior Ministry’s plan to raise the speed limit to 110 kilometers per hour on highways and 55 km/h inside urban areas is being criticized by experts who say existing road infrastructure cannot handle the change.

The current speed limits are 90 km/h for highways and 50 km/h inside cities. The change, which will be reflected in the relevant law, was announced by Hakkı Köylü, a member of Parliament’s Justice Commission and a deputy from Kastamonu, who also stated that the speed limit for urban areas might be increased again, to 75 kilometers per hour, in the years to come.

Critics say higher speed limits would cause more fatal accidents.

Demir Bükey, a driving expert and television host, cited the example of Australia, where the speed limit was lowered from 60 to 50 km/h in areas with dense populations. “That difference of 10 kilometers per hour reduces the stopping distance so much,” said Bükey. “The problem for us is not the raising of the limit; it is the lack of education. As long as people are not sensible, it does not matter whether it is 50 or 80.”

Assoc. Prof. Murat Ergün, an academic at Istanbul Technical University, said the statistics show no decrease in the number of accidents since highways were reconstructed to add dividers between oncoming lanes, but rather an increase in the damage caused during accidents. “Since drivers believe the highways with dividers to be safer, they speed more,” Ergün said. “Raising the limit from 50 to 70 inside cities would increase accidents resulting in deaths because of pedestrian activity.”

İhsan Memiş, the president of the Highway Traffic and Road Security Research Society, said the roads in Turkey have been built to be suitable for a speed limit of 90 kilometers per hour and noted that half of the country’s 10,000 fatal traffic accidents annually are caused by excessive speed. “Moreover, if you increase the speed limit inside cities to 70, you can neither save the elderly nor the children,” Memiş added.

Boray Uras, who lost her daughter in a traffic accident, said the speed limits in Turkey should be increased only if the awareness levels of parents and children become higher. “There are people who still have their 3- or 4-year-old children sit on their laps while driving,” said Uras. “Actually, instead of increasing the limits, just the opposite should be implemented.”

According to the cultural habits of Turkey, Uras argued, the speed limits should be no higher than 40 km/h inside cities and 90 km/h on highways.

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