[Data-Viz] World Speed Limits vs. Average User Speed

Just a quick one for the road. 



We found this pretty cool map visualization on Wikipedia of international speed limits in both kilometers and miles per hour, respectively. We were curious about how fast Wazers go on average in these countries, so we pulled data for average speed per country (and per US State).

Question: do the average speeds of Wazers in any of these countries come close to the actual limit?

A few caveats:

The map shows the highest posted speed limit per location. Think highways, autoroutes, autobhans, interstates and rural roads, rather than anything inside a city or metropolitan area. But even though these roads aren’t in the city, many of them are used by commuters to travel to and from work in major cities, and many places (especially European cities) have major highways that circle the city to allow for access.

This data is taken from the month of January 2015, which in some places means a lot more snow on the ground (and roads), and could lead to slower than usual speeds. We were worried about this affecting the data, but 9 out of the top 10 highest average speed countries have pretty severe winters, including Sweden and Denmark.

We know that most of our users live in or around cities. And speed limits have little correlation to actual speed on roads during weekday rush hours, which are our most active periods of the day on the app.

Given what we know, the hypothesis was that the average speeds of Wazers in most of these countries would fall short of the highest posted speed limit. But what we found really surprised us…

You can’t drive 55…on average

Or really anywhere close to that. You cant even drive 40 miles per hour (65 kilometers per hour) on average, let alone 45, which was the lowest of the “highest posted speed limits”. Even Germany with its famous “no limit” Autobahns comes in 7th at 52.2 KM/H (This actually changes to 40th after you add all of the individual US states).

average speed, non US

We did 13 rather than 10 to fit in the US. It’s 13th.


Both of the winners, Liechtenstein and Swaziland (65 & 62 km/h, respectively) and many of the other countries (Denmark, Switzerland, Andorra) are very small countries. Germany, the US and Spain all make it it, but average speeds hover around 50km/h, less than half their highest posted speed limit. 

Breaking the US down by state and comparing it with countries (like they did in the map above) makes things weirder. Though the US as a country only has an average user speed of 50km/h, the individual states place significantly faster than that.

In fact, the only thing not a US State that makes it into the top 10 is Liechtenstein:

top10 average speed

Liechtenstein holds on!

Note that the states the beat out the others for fastest average speed are the more rural ones, many in the Southeast region. And we don’t think this is a user bias, since we have huge communities in Georgia and Tennessee despite smaller ones in New Hampshire and West Virginia.

This is not entirely surprising, as major highways (and more importantly, major ground shipping routes) run through all of these places. Even Liechtenstein, which as a country basically consists of castles, rich people, and a highway that connects Austria and Switzerland.

States with multiple major cities like New York, Florida and California aren’t going to make it into this list because the sheer amount of people stuck in traffic all of the time is always going to outweigh the average speed on the highways.

So next time you’re driving along at a painful crawl on the the highway and you see that speed limit sign taunting you, don’t worry! You’re not alone.

Oh- and use Waze next time. That ought to help.