Huge road safety improvement, or the thin edge of the revenue gathering wedge?

New Zealand’s first weather-activated road signs, on State Highway 29, are ready to go.

There are 22 signs on a 12km stretch between Waikato and Bay of Plenty, part of a two-year NZ Transport Agency trial aiming to reduce crashes on the steep and sometimes slippery road.

The signs, and four web cameras, will be linked to a weather station at the summit of the range and the transport agency will monitor conditions and adjust speeds to between 30 km/h and 100 km/h.

These speeds will be enforced by police.

From a road safety point of view, that just can’t be argued with.   But…  

Transport agency chief safety adviser Colin Brodie said the trial aimed to encourage drivers to travel safely when rain, ice and fog hit.

“Our data shows that over 70 per cent of the crashes on the Kaimai Range happen in wet weather, and that over 40 per cent of these were caused by drivers travelling too fast for the conditions,” he said.

“Despite the changeable weather on the Kaimai Range people still attempt to travel at 100km/h.

“These signs will allow us to drop the speeds to 60km/h on the Waikato side and 80km/h on the Bay of Plenty in adverse weather.

“They will also be used during road works or in the event of a crash, when speeds may be reduced to as low as 30km/h.”

If successful, similar technology could be installed on other roads, Mr Brodie said

People are going to get caught doing 65 on a road that had a 70 limit ten minutes ago.

You would have to hope that there will be some degree of tolerance to speeds changing down just because 3 km up the road the rain is bucketing down while it’s still dry where you are.

Overseas we know of towns that drop their speed limit lower than the generally accepted national standards just so they can do some revenue gathering.  But at least you can learn where those speeds drop, and learn to drive to the signs.

But with signs now no longer static, that too could become a bit of a problem.

As I started out:  this is great.  It really is.  Some people need signs to tell them not to drive 100 km/h while it is bucketing down on a narrow windy road full of other traffic.

But I can also see someone standing in court being told he was going over the speed limit when he’s got no clear recollection of the limit changing from the number he saw on the sign when he started the journey.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out throughout the trial.

 

– NZME,


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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