People who speed already proving some roads are safe

Unintended consequences of speeding on safe roads is that we know it is safe

The Waikato region has the highest road toll in the country, with 55 deaths so far this year.

Factoring in loss of life, loss of output medical, property damage, legal and court costs, those deaths came at an estimated social cost of $219 million.

The region’s transport committee chair, Hugh Vercoe, said some country roads were not safe at 100 kilometres an hour – while sections of the new expressway, which will link Auckland to Cambridge, could be suitable for a higher speed limit.

“We’re saying what is appropriate, and if the Waikato Expressway, with its four lanes, with separation in the middle, is 100km/h, is that the safe speed limit?

“That may be part of the discussion and we may well say that could go to 110.”

Automobile Association motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon agreed the expressway was being built to a very high standard and could operate safely at 110km/h.

“Many of those roads will be running pretty much at 110km at the moment when they’re uncongested, they’ll be running very close to that,” he said. “But, of course, those people are currently speeding.”

The way we seem to be going is that the very clear 50 /70 / 100 zones are slowly being diluted to make sure that hot spots have the speed limit reduced.  But at least there is some honesty about lifting it where it is safe to do so as well.  

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is funding the $175,000 pilot project.

The agency’s road safety director, Ernst Zollner, said it would identify which Waikato roads did not fit its draft management guide, which outlines optimal speeds for different types of roads based on safety, travel times, and fuel efficiency.

They would decide what action was needed, which might not always mean a speed change, he said.

“In some cases that might mean treating the road, so maybe the speed limit may be fine but people are not reading the risk right.

“So it may be a nice straight road through the Waikato but it has no shoulders and a dangerous ditch, so we can do something to kind of explain that better, whether it’s signage or doing something to the road.”

The draft management guide has identified that a 110km/h speed limit could be justified on the country’s best roads, and the Waikato Expressway could be a candidate – although it would require a law change, he said.

For Waikato’s police district road safety manager, Inspector Freda Grace, the solutions were also wider than speed limits.

She said the aim was to help people understand road risks through signage, road markings and engineering improvements.

On the whole, it’s good to see investments in roading throughout the country.  Faster, safer roads are exactly what we need.  And once we have self-drive trucks and cars, that’s going to be a huge benefit down the road.    ahem


– Jo O’Brien, RNZ

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