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AA boss puts foot down on speed limit proposals

Automobile Association Wairarapa chairman Craig Bowyer said reducing speed limits won’t bring safety to Wairarapa roads. PHOTO/JOHN LAZO-RON

Speed limit proposals ‘not the way’

If the government wants to reduce New Zealand’s road toll by a big margin, building safer roads should be its primary aim, Automobile Association Wairarapa chairman Craig Bowyer said.

And a blanket approach to lowering speed limits in New Zealand would not, on its own, achieve its Road to Zero ambition.

The New Zealand Transport Agency wants to improve the process for setting speed limits and planning for safety infrastructure on New Zealand roads and has made public a draft document entitled Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2021.

The proposal is open for public consultation.

The government’s Road to Zero road safety strategy for 2020 to 2030 aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads by 40 per cent during the next 10 years.

Although reducing speed limits might seem like a good idea in reducing serious injury or death, Bowyer said he did not believe lowering speed limits would make a huge difference to road safety.

“The AA sees reducing speeds as not the way to make our roads here in Wairarapa safer,” he said.

“We believe roads should be engineered to provide safer roads. The roads need to be brought up to spec.

“For too long, there’s been under-investment in our roading infrastructure, and [lowering speeds] just seems to be the cheapest way to do anything about it.

“The blanket approach of simply focusing on speed is not what we believe – it’s part of the toolbox but by no means do we see it as being the way.

“Just trying to make people go slower is not going to stop the one or two-star safety cars being on the road, people not using their seatbelts, or getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink,” he said.

“It’s a multi-problem approach, and safer roads should be what we’re looking for first.”

The changes proposed by NZTA’s rule would require the agency and regional transport committees to produce detailed speed management plans every three years, setting out all proposed changes over a 10-year period, including planned changes to speed limits as well as details on planned infrastructure improvements and potential use of speed cameras on high-risk routes.

“The current process for making changes to speed limits, through local bylaws or a gazetting process can be a lengthy, complicated, and often difficult process for communities to engage in, the agency’s director of land transport Kane Patena said.

“The changes proposed in this rule aim to make the process simpler, more effective and more transparent for everyone.”

Patena said the NZTA wants people to get where they’re going safely on New Zealand’s roads, whether driving, cycling, or walking.

“[NZTA] is committed to delivering Road to Zero, the government’s road safety strategy for 2020 to 2030,” Patena said.

“It aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 40 per cent over the next 10 years, and has a long-term vision of a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads. 

“Along with making improvements to the safety of roads and roadsides, improving the safety of our vehicle fleet, and promoting safer road user behaviour, safer speeds are a fundamental element of a safer road transport system for everyone.

“New Zealand’s roads vary hugely, in geography, traffic volumes and the types of vehicles that use them. Speed limits need to reflect these unique factors and the specific risks of each road.

“We need safer speed limits that better protect all road users, particularly on high-risk roads and around schools. Local communities know the roads in their areas well, and we’re keen to hear their views on the changes proposed in this rule.” 

The rule also aimed to improve safety outside schools by reducing speed limits around urban schools to 30kmh [or 40kmh where appropriate] and a maximum of 60kmh around rural schools.

However, Bowyer used Saddle Rd in the Tararua district as an example of speed reduction not making a difference.

“Saddle Rd was reduced to 60kmh. No one sticks to it. It’s a racetrack in getting up and down the hill,” he said.

“If you reduce the speed limit and no one takes any notice, what’s the point?

“Drivers will get frustrated at reduced speeds, and then they’ll do something stupid. The amount of frustration that will happen at 80kmh will be far higher than 90 or 100kmh.”

Bowyer said if the government were serious about reducing death and serious injury, they should be installing side barriers on State Highway 2.

“The big problem for Wairarapa is that there are too many power poles within five metres of the road,” Bowyer said.

In a crash, that would be like driving into a wall of concrete, he said.

“Safety barriers are the way to avoid this. Scandinavian countries have installed a lot of cable side barriers, and that’s had a huge impact of reducing fatalities.

“Cable side barriers catch cars and slow it down before anything happens.”

Bowyer said AA Wairarapa were putting together a survey for their members so they could have their say in the consultation process regarding Wairarapa roads.

He also urged Wairarapa people to get in touch with Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty and let him know if they were for or against the consultation process.

“Everyone needs to have their say because we all use the roads,” he said.

“We need to speak up as one voice because that’s how you get what you really want.”

The Setting of Speed Limits Rule Public consultation ends on June 25.

  • For more information go to: www.nzta.govt.nz/speedrule2021

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