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Slow … in the name of safety

Constable Sarah Saunders issues a warning to a driver outside Solway School. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR

Pauling: The bottom line is ‘safety for tamariki’

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A new variable electronic speed sign outside Solway School.

As primary pupils returned to school last week, new variable electronic signs reduced the speed of motorists outside several Masterton schools in the name of safety.

The Masterton District Council roading team has installed signs outside Solway School, Masterton Primary School, Lakeview School, Makoura College and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa.

The signs would operate during drop-off and pick-up times and would reduce speeds from 50kmh to 40kmh.

Masterton District Council roading manager Kaine Jaquiery said road safety was a top priority for MDC.

“We want kids to be able to cross the road safely. It’s important that this happens across all of Masterton so that everyone is on the same page.

“It’s just about reminding the community how crucial the reduction of speed is,” Solway School principal Mark Bridges said.

Bridges described the road outside Solway School as “a really lethal strip” due to the railway crossing, the busy intersection, and the fact that Ngaumutawa Rd was a bypass road.

The closure of the Manawatu Gorge had also increased the traffic driving past Masterton.

“This road in particular is notorious … historically there has been one of the highest rates of speeders of any road in the Wellington region.”

In 2017, the Times-Age reported that 1482 speeding tickets had been issued on Ngaumutawa Rd from January to November 2016 – the equivalent of one in every 17 Masterton residents receiving a ticket on the road.

To reinforce the message of speed reduction, Constable Sarah Saunders of the Wellington Regional Road Policing Unit operated a laser speed detection device in the 40kmh zone outside Solway School.

Several drivers received warnings for speeds over 40kmh, with only one driver receiving a ticket.

“Most people were complying when they saw the signs,” Saunders said. “Obviously, our physical presence was helpful too, with some of them slowing down when they saw police.”

Saunders attributed the success of the speed signs to the work of the Wairarapa Road Safety Council and the awareness campaign they had started in advance of the new school year.

WRSC manager Bruce Pauling said that a behaviour change was required from road users approaching schools.

“The bottom line is safety for the tamariki…Now we need people to get on board.”

Pauling said that the risk of being killed or seriously injured by a vehicle doubled when the speed of the vehicle increased from 40 to 50kmh.

At 50kmh in good conditions it would take an average driver 35 metres to stop, whereas at 40kmh, the distance reduced to about 27m.

“Just those extra few metres could be really important in a situation where a kid dived out from the side of the road.”

Pauling said that MDC’s installation of the variable speed signs was well aligned with Central Government’s Road to Zero road safety strategy.

That strategy aimed to reduce road user deaths and serious injuries by 40 per cent by 2030 through a combination of improvements to infrastructure such as median barriers, speed limit changes, and increased levels of enforcement.

Saunders called on road users to pay attention to the new speed signs, and to give the road the full attention it required.

“Remember you are setting an example to the younger generation of how road users need to be safe and smart on our roads.”

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