Embrace safer speed limits

The Australasian College of Road Safety (ARCS) is advocating for an agreed and evidence-based approach to setting speed limits, as New Zealand moves to revise its speed management policies.

New Zealand’s road fatality rates remain alarmingly high, ranking 29th out of 35 OECD countries in 2022. Despite common perceptions, many fatalities result from everyday drivers making simple mistakes on undivided roads at high speeds, ARCS says.

“Research shows that speed management can significantly reduce road casualties. Auckland’s Safe Speeds Programme led to a 30% reduction in fatalities, while similar measures in rural Waikato achieved comparable results,” a spokesperson says.

Speed limits often stir debate, with concerns about slower travel times and productivity losses, however studies reveal that overall travel times remain consistent due to natural driving patterns around intersections and corners. Other research shows that road crashes cost New Zealand approximately $10 billion annually in lost productivity, and that young lives are disproportionately affected by road crashes.

“Slower limits near schools and shopping centres protect pedestrians and cyclists, while higher speed roads require limits that prevent fatal and severe injury head-on crashes,” says ARCS.

“Credible and believable speed limits are crucial for public adherence and overall road safety. To reduce road trauma and fatalities, New Zealand must embrace safer speed limits, aligned with road conditions. This is the most cost-effective means of reducing road trauma. “Enforcement alone is not enough; an holistic approach involving the entire system, including safer vehicles, roads, users, and speed limits, is necessary.”

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