School children need protection of low speed limit

Lucinda Rees argues for a 30kmh speed limit outside schools at their busy times.

Every child should have an innate right to a safe journey to and from school, but it's easy to forget that something as innocent as this journey can be a minefield for pupils.

Especially when they are in the company of friends, or wanting to join their friends as Junior Ianuali (6) appears to have been trying to do recently when killed outside Cannons Creek School, Porirua.

It appears the car that hit him was unlikely to have been speeding in the 50kmh zone, but few children would survive being hit by a car at that speed.

At 50kmh, the average car would travel 13m while the driver reacts, and then the car would travel another 15m while braking.

If a 30kmh speed limit had been in place in the Cannons Creek School zone, this tragedy may well have had a different outcome. At 30kmh, the car would have travelleda total of 13m, perhaps not hitting Junior at all.

The World Health Organisation recommends 20kmh or 30kmh outside schools and play areas. It considers these areas of the roading system as places where children can make a mistake without it being their last one.

No matter how well children, and even teenagers, are taught about road dangers, when they are near their mates, their brains often go to mush. Also, children's brains are not developed enough to be able to judge the speed of vehicles.

The NZTA and Ministry of Transport on their websites have lots of information about Safer Journeys, but you will struggle to find any mention of safe speeds near unpredictable children.

It is obviously just inconvenient for children to behave so unpredictably, yet as adults we should nurture them and give them space to make mistakes.

The website is all about grown-up stuff, about how responsible adults are doing their utmost to not cause drivers any inconvenience. I would always rather slow down and miss an appointment than hit a child and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't do the same.

The Associate Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, tells me a consistent speed limit outside schools isn't feasible, as did Steven Joyce as minister of transport before.

A consistent speed limit should be in place outside all schools.

No school should have more than 70kmh outside their gates and all schools should have a consistent speed limit of no more than 30kmh during busy periods as recommended.

Roads need to be narrowed outside schools, to make drivers want to slow and - apart from the usual signs - paint on the road should alert drivers they are entering a school zone.

A consistent speed limit of 30kmh during busy times will save lives.

• Linda Rees is a school speed limit campaigner from North Canterbury.


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