What’s the difference between speed bumps and speed humps?

What’s the difference between speed bumps and speed humps?

In our fast-paced world, we often rush from one place to another, not always fully aware of the potential dangers on the road. One such danger is speeding, which is a significant cause of road accidents. To help mitigate this risk, traffic calming measures such as speed bumps and speed humps have been designed. But what exactly are speed bumps and speed humps and how do they differ from each other? This article will provide a detailed look into these two traffic calming devices, their definitions, uses, and differences. Speed bumps and speed humps, though similar in purpose, differ in design, layout, and impact on vehicles. Understanding these differences is essential for anyone involved in road planning, maintenance, and safety. Even for everyday drivers, a basic awareness of these traffic calming features can contribute to safer driving habits.     At a glance, speed bumps and speed humps might seem identical. They’re both raised devices placed across the width of the road to slow down vehicles. However, they are not interchangeable terms, and each has its unique characteristics. In this article, we will delve into the specifics of how they are laid out, their typical uses, and their respective impacts on vehicles. The understanding of the precise differences between speed bumps and speed humps is not only crucial for road safety but also for making informed decisions when it comes to traffic management. Each of these devices has its advantages and disadvantages, and their selection largely depends on the particular needs of a road or a community. In the end, the goal of both speed bumps and speed humps is to protect the lives of road users by reducing vehicle speeds. Whether you’re a city planner, a property manager, or a resident concerned about traffic safety in your neighborhood, understanding these traffic calming devices will help you make the right choices. By the end of this detailed exploration, you should be able to differentiate a speed bump from a speed hump and know which would be the best fit for your specific scenario. So, sit back, buckle up and get ready for an enlightening journey into the world of speed bumps and speed humps and their role in ensuring safe and serene roads.

Definition of Speed Bumps

Speed bumps, as their name suggests, are traffic calming devices used primarily to slow down vehicles in specific areas. They are engineered structures often made from asphalt, concrete, recycled plastic, rubber, or metal. Visually, speed bumps can be identified as raised areas of pavement that stretch across the width of the road. Typically, they are about 6 to 12 inches in width and 3 to 4 inches in height. The primary use of speed bumps is in areas where the reduction of vehicle speed is considered essential for safety purposes. These include residential neighborhoods, school zones, parking lots, and other pedestrian-heavy areas. The abrupt nature of speed bumps forces drivers to reduce their speed significantly to avoid discomfort or potential vehicle damage.

Definition of Speed Humps

Speed humps, sometimes inaccurately referred to as ‘speed bumps’, are traffic calming devices designed to make roadways safer for pedestrians and drivers. They are typically broad, rounded, and elongated, extending across the full width of the roadway. Constructed from asphalt, plastic, rubber, or metal, speed humps are generally 3 to 4 inches high and 10 to 14 feet wide. Speed humps serve the primary function of slowing down vehicle speeds, usually to 10-20 miles per hour, ideal for residential areas, schools, and parks where the pedestrian presence is high. They are engineered to make drivers reduce speed over a longer distance, causing less abrupt deceleration and acceleration compared to the more aggressive speed bumps. They’re highly effective in promoting safe driving habits and reducing the likelihood of accidents.

Differences Between Speed Bumps and Speed Humps

While both speed bumps and speed humps are designed for the same purpose – to slow down vehicle traffic – there are key differences between the two. These differences can be sorted under two categories: physical and functional differences. Understanding these variances is vital to making an informed decision on what is best suited for your specific needs. Starting with the physical differences, speed bumps are typically smaller and taller than speed humps. Generally, speed bumps measure about 3 to 6 inches in height and are usually less than a foot wide. Due to their size, drivers need to come to a near-stop when traversing over them, making them an effective solution for areas where extremely slow speeds are necessary. On the other hand, speed humps are broader and lower than speed bumps. They tend to be about 3 to 4 inches in height and can extend up to 14 feet in width. This width allows vehicles to traverse over them at a moderate speed without causing discomfort to the passengers or damage to the vehicle. Therefore, speed humps are commonly used in areas where slowing traffic is necessary, but not to the extent of forcing a near-stop. Beyond the physical elements, there are also functionality differences between speed bumps and speed humps. Speed bumps, due to their size and height, have a dramatic impact on vehicle speed, reducing it to around 5 mph. This makes them ideal for areas like parking lots, driveways, and private lanes, where pedestrian safety is paramount. Speed humps, despite being used to slow down traffic, allow for a smoother transition and affect vehicle speed less dramatically than speed bumps do. Their design allows vehicles to maintain a speed of around 15 to 20 mph, making them suitable for residential roads, school zones, and other areas where the goal is to moderate, not drastically reduce, vehicle speed. The impact on vehicles is another important aspect to consider when comparing speed bumps and speed humps. Due to their abrupt and taller design, speed bumps can cause more noticeable discomfort to vehicle passengers and potentially more stress on the vehicle itself, especially if traversed at higher speeds. Speed humps, with their gentler, sloping design and wider span, lead to a less jarring experience for passengers and are less likely to cause vehicle damage. In conclusion, while both speed bumps and speed humps serve the same basic function of slowing vehicle traffic, they are not interchangeable. Their differences in size, impact on vehicle speed, and effect on passenger comfort and vehicle stress need to be taken into account when deciding which is most appropriate for a given setting.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are notable advantages and disadvantages to both speed bumps and speed humps. The main advantage of speed bumps is that they are very effective at reducing speed, as they require vehicles to nearly stop to pass over them comfortably. They are especially suitable for parking lots and private roads, where controlling speed is of utmost importance. On the other hand, speed humps, while not as abrupt as speed bumps, still effectively slow down vehicles. Their design allows for a smoother transition, making them ideal for public roads and residential areas, where maintaining traffic flow is crucial. However, both have their downsides as well. Speed bumps, due to their aggressive design, can cause discomfort to drivers and may even damage vehicles if not approached correctly. Speed humps, while smoother, can still be a nuisance, particularly for emergency vehicles that need to maintain a faster speed. Both can also lead to increased noise from braking and acceleration, which can be disruptive in residential areas. In summary, both speed bumps and speed humps have their specific applications and should be chosen based on the specific speed control needs of an area.


In conclusion, both speed bumps and speed humps play crucial roles in traffic management, ensuring the safety of pedestrians and vehicles on our roads. However, they exhibit notable differences in terms of design, functionality, and impact on vehicles. A summarized understanding of their features and uses can help you make an informed decision on which traffic calming measure to implement in your area. Speed bumps, which are usually higher and narrower, are designed to control speed in areas such as parking lots and private roads. They are abrupt, therefore forcing vehicles to slow down significantly when driving over them. However, their stark physical structure may potentially cause damage if a vehicle traverses them at high speed. On the other hand, speed humps, characterized by their broad, rounded design, are best suited for residential areas and streets with low speed limits. They allow for a smoother transition, reducing the risk of vehicle damage, while still effectively slowing down speeding vehicles. However, they may cause delays for emergency vehicles which is a significant drawback. In terms of advantages, speed bumps are highly effective in slowing down vehicles to almost a halt, thereby enhancing pedestrian safety. They are also easier to recognize due to their abrupt design. Regarding speed humps, they have a more widespread use due to their gentle, gradual design which allows vehicles to maintain a slightly faster speed compared to speed bumps. This is beneficial on roads where slow but continuous traffic flow is required. Speed bumps and speed humps also come with their fair share of disadvantages. Speed bumps can potentially cause damage to vehicles if driven over at high speed, and they may also disrupt the flow of traffic. Speed humps, while less jarring to vehicles, may cause delays for emergency services as they still require vehicles to slow down. Based on these insights, the choice between speed bumps and speed humps ultimately comes down to your specific requirements. If you need to enforce a very low speed limit, speed bumps might be the appropriate choice. In contrast, if you need to slow down vehicles without disrupting traffic flow too much, speed humps could be the more suitable option. In making this decision, it is crucial to consider the nature of the area, the type of vehicles that frequent it, and the desired speed limit. This comprehensive understanding will ensure the chosen traffic calming measure serves its purpose effectively.