New speed limits on Christchurch-Akaroa highway from September 2

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
Motorists driving between Christchurch and Akaroa have been warned to look out for the lower speed limits being introduced next month.

The new speed limits, which will come into effect along the Christchurch to Akaroa highway (State Highway 73 and 75) from September 2, were announced earlier this year by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Christchurch City Council.

As well as the Akaroa highway, SH74 in Lyttelton and some Banks Peninsula side roads are included in the speed limit changes.

The changes include more consistent speeds through Halswell, 60km/h over the Hilltop and 50km/h through Little River to just past Wairewa Marae.

High-risk 100km/h sections of SH75 will be reduced to 80km/h.

Waka Kotahi director regional relationships James Caygill is expecting similar benefits to those seen in the Marlborough and Tasman districts, where road deaths and serious injuries from crashes on SH6 have been significantly reduced since the speed limits were lowered in 2020.

"I’ve driven to Akaroa many times and, while it does feel different travelling at the new speeds, if around five minutes is the difference between someone being killed or seriously injured, then bring it on," Caygill said.

The new permanent speed limits. Image: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency
The new permanent speed limits. Image: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency
City council transport operations manager Stephen Wright said lowering the speed limits recognises the communities are changing.

Wright said there are more people about on the road - including children getting to and from school, people on bikes, motorcyclists, and walkers.

“Safe and appropriate speed limits mean everyone gets to enjoy the road environment and get to where they’re going safely."

Senior Sergeant Mike Jones, of Canterbury road policing, said they will be in the area when the new speeds come into effect and in the weeks following.

There will also be electronic signs to help remind drivers about the changes.

“As well as being more appropriate for the roadside conditions and environment, there are lots of benefits of driving at 80km/h," Jones said.

"You have 20 per cent more time to react, your stopping distance is 30 per cent shorter and your chance of surviving a crash is 75 per cent - whereas at 100km/h it is 10 per cent.

"Plus, a reduction in speed adds an extra song to the journey.”

Christchurch Emergency Department clinical director Dr Mark Gilbert and his team deal with the devastation caused by road crashes.

“This is always difficult for the team - but not as difficult as it is for families of loved ones who are injured or killed," Gilbert said.

"People dying or coming to terms with life-altering injuries is really sad, especially when it is preventable.

“Safer speed limits mean fewer crashes and should they be involved in a crash, less impact on people’s bodies.

"The flow-on effect is a reduced impact on whanau and friends. There is also reduced impact on the medical and social services who support victims and their families," Gilbert says.

From 2011-2020, 747 crashes occurred between Christchurch and Akaroa. Nine people were killed and 74 others seriously injured.

Some of the safety issues in the area raised by the community during public consultation, include:

  • Feedback saying intersections on this road feel unsafe.
  • Drivers slow down to turn off the road to access homes, communities, businesses and tourist destinations in Banks Peninsula, while those travelling through continue to drive at 100km/h
  • The current road layout makes it difficult for traffic to safely turn, and hard for drivers to see what’s ahead
  • Urban areas and rural townships are getting busier, with more cars and other vehicles on the road and more people walking, riding and cycling in these areas.

Waka Kotahi is also installing new signage at town entrances, adding or improving road markings, continuing with the maintenance programme on SH73/75 - with nearly 30km of road surfacing under way between Christchurch and Akaroa. It is also investigating a range of infrastructure improvements along SH75 between Tai Tapu and Akaroa.

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