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Speed limits one road safety factor

Opinion Piece

Respondents to our weekly opinion poll on reducing speed limits on New Zealand roads were mostly against it, but as this debate continues it’s clear that actions need to be taken in a number of areas to make our roads safer.

Sixty percent of 378 responses to the poll were against reducing speed limits, 35 percent for and 5 percent undecided. This mirrors the views being expressed throughout the country to the suggestion by the NZ Transport Agency that speed limits need to be reviewed for much of the country’s road network.

NZTA says its mega maps system indicates that 87 percent of the present speed limits are too high and only 5 percent of the 100kmh limit roads are suitable for that speed. Urban limits should be between 30-50kmh, it says.

The suggestion to reduce limits has prompted a storm of objections, including from the Automobile Association which said that reducing speed limits would not necessarily improve road safety.

Unsurprisingly there is opposition from the transport industry, which says this would create a risk of slowing New Zealand down.

But the comments from our poll respondents make sense, especially those saying the authorities should be talking about drivers using cellphones, not driving to the conditions and speeding.

Enforcement and public buy-in, especially around stopping drink- and drug-driving, are also key.

No roads in this district are safe for travelling at 100kmh according to the NZTA map system, with most of our rural roads and SH35 showing 60kmh as the “safe and appropriate speed”. Arterial roads through Gisborne City are 50kmh, most of the rest show 40kmh as appropriate.

Many will have been alarmed this week to learn that only seven of 226 foreign drivers who sat the road test actually passed.

It would be interesting to see how many Kiwi drivers would pass questions like when car headlights must be switched on, without a chance to prepare for the test. It is also noteworthy that overseas tourists are less likely to crash compared to New Zealand drivers.

There is much food for thought on the whole issue of road safety, and speed limits are only one of the factors that need to be considered.