Traffic calming is a way to design streets, using physical measures, to encourage people to drive more slowly. It creates physical and visual cues that induce drivers to travel at slower speeds. Traffic calming is self-enforcing. The design of the roadway results in the desired effect, without relying on compliance with traffic control devices such as signals, signs, and without enforcement. While elements such as landscaping and lighting do not force a change in driver behavior, they can provide the visual cues that encourage people to drive more slowly.
The reason traffic calming is such a powerful and compelling tool is that it has proven to be so effective. Some of the effects of traffic calming, such as fewer and less severe crashes, are clearly measurable. Others, such as supporting community livability, are less tangible, but equally important.
Experience throughout Europe, Australia, and North America has shown that traffic calming, if done correctly, reduces traffic speeds, the number and severity of crashes, and noise level. Research on traffic-calming projects in the United States supports their effectiveness at decreasing automobile speeds, reducing the numbers of crashes, and reducing noise levels for specific contexts. Looking at a sample of various speed studies shows that typical speed reductions of 5 to 20 percent at the 85th percentile speed can be realized by the use of traffic-calming measures—including speed tables, mini-circles, speed humps, and other standard traffic-calming devices.1 Use of several of the traffic-calming measures have also resulted in substantial reductions in motor vehicle crashes. For example, the implementation of traffic mini-circles in Seattle has resulted in a reduction of approximately 80 percent of intersection accidents.1