Concerns over slashing speeds on southern roads

Moves to bring in 80kmh speed limits for state highways in the South, such as Dunedin’s northern...
Moves to bring in 80kmh speed limits for state highways in the South, such as Dunedin’s northern motorway (pictured), would be controversial. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Transport advocates are calling on the Government to be up front about its agenda for speed limits on state highways.

Southern mayors have also raised worries about reliance on speed-limit reductions to reduce harm on roads and under-investment in the network, driver education and speed enforcement.

National transport policy appeared to prioritise urban concerns over the needs of rural communities, they said.

Both Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett and Automobile Association Otago chairman Malcolm Budd hit out at what they see as a national campaign to cut speed limits from 100kmh to 80kmh on state highways that lack median barriers.

That would affect the vast majority of Otago and Southland state highways.

Mr Leggett called on the Government to be transparent with the public about its agenda.

The Ministry of Transport has said there are no current or planned proposals for a sweeping policy that would reduce speed limits on roads without median barriers.

The NZ Transport Agency said the agency, the ministry and the Government "have all been very vocal about the role of safe speeds in helping New Zealand achieve the 40% reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2030 set as an initial goal in the Road to Zero strategy".

The agency is working through a series of speed limit reviews.

Most of Northland’s 880km of state highway could have speed limits slashed from 100kmh to 80kmh.

Those proposals have been labelled "punitive".

The speed limit on a 90km stretch of State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupo is to be cut from 100kmh to 80kmh next month.

Road users there have said this could lead to impatient drivers attempting risky overtaking manoeuvres.

There is also a speed limit review under way on the stretch of SH2 from the Hutt Valley in Wellington to Featherston in Wairarapa.

However, lowering the speed limit on sections of SH6 between Nelson and Blenheim at the end of 2020 has been labelled a success by officials.

The serious crash rate was slashed.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks was wary of a one-size-fits-all mentality.

"If there was to be some kind of blanket lowering of speed limits, I think that would go down badly," Mr Hicks said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the South did not do as well as other regions from national policies directing transport funding to regions where traffic was busiest and where emphasis had shifted to public transport and cycling.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said wholesale speed-limit changes would not necessarily achieve safety objectives.

Mr Leggett said Otago and Southland were a "poor cousin" for receiving lower levels of roading investment.

Mr Budd said money needed to be spent on upgrading roads and speed-limit reductions should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

An adjusted philosophy for speed management is outlined in a 2018 Ministry of Transport document.

In it, officials signal their lack of comfort about "misalignment" between speed limits and road conditions, in many cases.

Many people travelled too fast for the conditions, "because the posted speed limit does not reflect the level of risk".

Ministry of Transport mobility and safety manager Robert Anderson said the ministry expected to make progress this year on tackling unsafe speeds.

The programme’s main components included moving to safer speed limits around schools.

A new regulatory system for speed management would be established, "improving the way road controlling authorities plan and implement speed limit changes through introducing speed management plans".

A spokesman for the transport agency said it was reviewing speed limits on high-risk sections of New Zealand’s state highway network and locations where communities were calling for safer speed limits.

"Where evidence gathered from these reviews shows that speed limits are not safe and appropriate we are proposing new safer speed limits."

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

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Will save lives and petrol.
Say 90kph for cars, & 80kph for trucks.
Would make open road driving a pleasure again.

It will more likely result in more accidents due to poor overtaking and impatience. The road rules need a complete shake up as does driver training and, given the immaturity of many drivers, the driving age should be increased to 20 for females and 25 for males. Compulsory insurance should be a given, cost related to car performance.

Why more accidents? Surely its easier and safer to overtake at 80kph than 100kph. And the impatient idiots overtaking dangerously at 80kph would like be exactly the same as the idiots dangerously overtaking now.
Not sure a blanket 5 year gap for male / female drivers would be easy to pass - or necessary. I'd be more inclined to go for a restriction on the vehicle driven. What other rules need changing though, considering you want a complete shakeup?

So: rather than actually doing anything about our decaying transport network, in the most sparsely settled part of the country that requires long distance travel to achieve anything, the solution is to reduce speed limits? Has there been any work on the cost to our productivity?

And the likelihood that the limits will be ignored is a really bad idea: governments should be wary of imposing unenforceable regulations as it destroys their credibility.

No apologies, i be blunt. I'm a Kiwi ex ambo driving instructor in the UK where I also did stunt driving. Did the same when I came back here.
On rural South Island roads, 90% of drivers are below average in ability and simply cannot drive to the conditions.
They drive far too fast for roads which in many cases cannot be improved and if they can, we cannot afford to improve them. The ground is too soft for anything solid on top.
90% of rivers are oblivious to the fact there are no ambulances available in many parts and often helicopters cannot fly.
Most of the macho males have not grown up and the road is a playground - the car is a toy - and the driver still a child.
The manner you get overtaken by these speeding utes on roads with poor visibility over the Haast / Lindis / Lewis Pass leaves me gobsmacked. Then over the Mackenzie basin lets get our utes up to at 140k before I'm called a sissy.
And with signwriting on most of these work utes, does that stop their pathetic driving? NO
Is the answer on road policing? NO
In the UK now they police by camera. 24/7 they know your speed, film you, ping you and if you get too many pings, you're in for a driving test.

I would say 100% of rivers don't care tbh...

Spot on GM. Though isn't it annoying when you drop a letter and don't notice:-)

90% 'below average' does seem high, till you realize nobody has reactions good enough to cope with such speeds.
Like the retest after too many demerits. Being able to match the driver to the vehicle as this implies would also perhaps reduce the number of disqualified drivers who just carry on driving.

Sounds like a good way of pretending to do something without spending any money. Speed is a minor factor in most accidents. Poor quality roads, poor road markings, lack of safety features, inadequate driver training and pure stupidity (not wearing seat belts, using a phone, drink driving) need to be addressed first. If unemployment starts to rise we could always have someone walk in front of each car with a red flag as in the early days!

80KPH will seem horribly slow to many, and trucks for example, which are on a time schedule will just break the limit.

Modern vehicles are designed to run most efficiently at certain speeds. Until the whole of NZ's motor vehicle fleet is replaced by EVs what effect will these lower speed limits have on fuel usage?

Its not speed, but RPM. And what RPM your engine is doing depends on your gearing, load and speed.
Very few cars at driven at peak efficiency. I would think perhaps less than 1% of the kilometers driven by NZ vehicles. That said, considering an 80Kmph limit would result in less acceleration and breaking, I would think fuel usage would improve.

If there are still deaths on the road will the limit be reduced further?
Is this a way to "encourage" cycling and walking and the use of inconvenient infrequent public transport, by making it as slow and frustrating to use cars?
For rural people it's back to the 1800's. Social isolation will keep us healthy though. Aren't we lucky!

Even in the horse and cart days people were killed on the roads. People got run over, carts and wagons tipped over or crashed into one another.
The solution is well built, well designed roads.
Instead of pouring countless millions into bike tracks put the money into better roads. The caversham "highway" improvements cost $25 or so million. The last piece of the bike track to Pt Chalmers is costing at least $32 million. which will provide the best safety outcome for the most transport users.

There needs to be a proper 4 lane highway from Bluff to Kaitia. There is no plan to do that. But there is no end of money for dotted roads and ideological pipe dreams.

It would be wonderful to have well built, well designed roads. But it would cost billions to do and even then, they would almost certainly have speed limits, since that is a factor considered in road design. There no real question that many of our roads are not safe for speeds of 100kph.

The 'Caversham highway' improvements? Are you referring to the bridge overpass at Lookout Point?
One bridge for $25m vs 15Km of bike lane. A good apples to apples comparison.

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