The case for safe and appropriate speeds

The case for safe and appropriate speeds

AA bosses argued that cutting limits did not necessarily increase road safety, while transport leaders said such a move risked "slowing New Zealand down".

But Patrick Morgan, from the advocacy group Cycling Action Network, said road safety should not be framed as a "productivity or compliance issue".

"We deserve streets and roads that are safe and fit for purpose. Let's put humans at the front and centre, like we do with avoidable events like Pike River, Cave Creek, or Erebus.

"Whatever the cause of a crash, speed determines the level of harm. There's no doubt that safe speeds reduce harm, so I think it's unethical to stand by and do nothing."

Here Glen Koorey makes the case:

Critics of lower speeds miss the point

OPINION; In the past year there has been considerable discussion around lower speeds in New Zealand; firstly for rural roads and recently in urban areas. A key reason for proposing these is the safety benefits generated. Critics of such proposals tend to focus on two main areas of response:

1. The crashes are caused by road users with poor skills or behaviours; for example, drivers who can't handle our winding highways, pedestrians who don't look before crossing, cyclists who don't follow some road rules. Therefore we should improve our education and enforcement efforts on these fronts.

2. The crashes are caused by our relatively poor road environments; for example, sub-standard highway alignments with little median separation, urban streets without safe provision for walking or cycling. Therefore we should improve the engineering of our roads.

Both are very worthy aims and efforts should be made in these areas. The reality however is that we are dealing with a system that involves human beings and we have a limited transport budget. Therefore there will always be some people who make a mistake or a bad judgment, and there will always be roads of less-than-desirable quality. Even improving both of those areas will not happen overnight either. That's where lower speeds can improve crash outcomes now even when other parts of the system aren't perfect.


All around New Zealand we’re seeing communities demand safer speed limits,  as people realise that 100 km/h for an undivided rural road just isn’t safe and urban speed limits must come down – but NZTA is unwilling to get on with safer speed limits.

Here is a selection on recent media reports:

Delays to reducing Atawhai speed limit upset councillors: The speed limit on a dangerous stretch of Nelson’s State Highway 6 through Atawhai is still potentially years away frustrating councillors who say the delay is “ridiculous”.

Frustration with NZTA over delayed speed limit review for Marlborough roads

“Another crash, another frustrated response” over the lack of action to make one of State Highway 2’s crash-prone intersections in the Wairarapa safer.  Carterton Mayor John Booth  says “Thankfully we haven’t had a fatal, but that is a high speed area through there. It’s still 100kmh and I’m desperately concerned about the NZTA not addressing this.”

Residents renew demands for lower speed limit along State Highway 1 at Rangitata.following crash.

The mayors of Waimate District and  Mackenzie District Councils are fed up and embarrassed by NZTA’s lack of action on safer speed limits.

More than 2000 people sign petition to have NZTA lower the speed limit at Kawakawa’s notorious Three Bridges.  Residents of Waitati  in Otago have petitioned NZTA for a safer speed limit of 70 km/h.  Waitahanui on Lake Taupo is petitioning NZTA for a safer speed limit.

Recent crashes in Grovetown, Marlborough have residents asking NZTA what came of their requests for a safer limit?

Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Garry Webber says it is frustrating to delay council’s review of speed limits but this is due to “so much uncertainty around NZTA’s timing” on its SH 2 speed limit review – which NZTA had previously said would be completed in 2018.

In Pareora, near Timaru, NZTA has dismissed residents’ concerns about a stretch of road which over a 10-year period, has seen three fatal crashes, four serious crashes, five minor injury crashes and 16 non-injury crashes.

In South Canterbury, rural mayors want safer rural road speeds of 80km/h but advise “NZTA has been reluctant to act previously”. A situation that remains unchanged today.

In Southland, NZTA is relunctant to consider the community requests for safer speeds limits, claiming that these roads are outside of New Zealand’s  top 10%  “high benefit” speed management opportunities. What this means is that people must die before NZTA will consider safer speed limits.

In Glenavy, Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley is “sick and tired” of NZTA’s lack of action about a situation he describes as an accident waiting to happen..

In Kerikeri, local residents became so frustrated by lack of action that they reduced the speed limits to 80 km/h themselves.

Tauranga and Katikati, on State Highway 2 – the highest death toll of state highways – the residents want 80 km/h: “It feels like there’s a crash every other day on this road” , “How many people need to die before it becomes a priority?”

Residents are disappointed that NZTA has ruled out safer speed limits in Burkes Pass.

In Port Chalmers a local residents have had to petition and get a Council resolution requesting NZTA to implement a safer speed limit.

Even NZTA’s own research that most New Zealanders agree that our roads would be safer if we all drove a little slower, and they understand lower speed limits reduce road trauma (see NZTA research report 563: Safer speeds: public acceptance and compliance, December 2014)

And back in 2004, NZTA recognised that safer speeds on our rural roads were needed: “80km/h limit likely on dodgy NZ highways” but they failed to act.

Tragically,  NZTA’s nationwide ongoing reluctance to implement safer speed limits is killing us.