Speed Observatory

The year 2020 is a special year statistically, on the one hand because of the Covid-19 pandemic which made it impossible to carry out part of the measurements normally carried out during the first part of the year, and on the other hand because of the change of methodology in the collection of speed data. The number of collection points has been reduced from 215 to 135, but the data are much more exhaustive.

Speed is directly related to the frequency and severity of accidents (Nilsson and Elvik models). This is why it is important to monitor the speeds used to understand the evolution of the number of accidents and their consequences. The speed measurements are made for ONISR by a specialised research company, using a sampling methodology.

The speeds measured by the observatory do not claim to be absolutely representative of traffic on the entire French road network. On the other hand, their evolution over time is considered to be well representative of the general evolution of behaviour, in other words, these observations are relatively representative, provided that the panel of observation points is stable over time. The results of the speed observatory are therefore intrinsically linked to the panel of measurement points that feed it. It should be noted that there are breaks in the series linked to the change in methodology between 2019 and 2020.

Summary of the results for 2020

The average speed of passenger vehicles measured during the day on 2x2 or 2x3 lane networks has been re-evaluated downwards (-0.8 km/h on connecting freeways, -1.4 km/h on alternate freeways, -1.6 km/h on 2x2 lane roads).

On two-way roads outside built-up areas, the average speed remains stable (77.8 km/h, +0.1 km/h compared to 2019), but has been significantly increased on built-up areas.

On roads crossing small towns, the average speed has increased from 49.5 km/h to 54.3 km/h (+4.8 km/h) and by 5.4 points on roads entering or leaving medium-sized towns (from 47.9 to 53.3 km/h).

On the other hand, arterial roads in the center of average urban area have speeds more similar to those observed in 2019 (42.3 km/h, -0.8 km/h compared to 2019).

In general, the following trends are observed:

  • on 2- and 3-lane roads, average speeds stabilized compared to 2019 after two consecutive years of decline.
  • The average speed has increased significantly on roads in small towns and on arterial roads in medium-sized towns.
  • The rate of exceeding the speed limit is particularly high on roads in small town crossings and on medium town entrances and exits.
  • Nighttime speeds are higher than daytime speeds (except on connecting freeways), with greater differentials on networks in built-up areas and on two-way roads outside built-up areas.
  • for all networks, daytime speeds are higher on weekends than on working days.
  • Except in built-up areas, the average speeds of HGVs have been re-estimated downwards.

Average speeds of passenger vehicles and rates of exceeding the MAS in 2020 by type of network:

image 20


The full report and previous reports can be downloaded at the top right of the page (an english version is avalaible too).


In addition to the speed observatory, you will find the article from the behaviour observatory.