Nearly 90 percent of speed limits on New Zealand roads are too high for the conditions, according to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), prompting concerns the government will slash speed limits and “weaken” the economy.
The NZTA uses an online risk assessment tool, Mega Maps, to decide on new speed limits. It takes into account a range of factors such as crash history, road conditions, surrounding land use and traffic volumes to calculate an ideal speed.
The tool suggests a safe and appropriate speed of between 60-80 km/h for most stretches of open road, and a speed of 30-40 km/h for urban areas – a significantly higher range than the current limits.
Last month, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said the government’s Vision Zero road safety plan would seek to drop the number of road toll by half in the next decade – with lower speed limits a possible tool to achieve this.
“In the government policy statement, we identified rolling out the safe and appropriate speeds as identified in the speed management guide.”
“We wouldn’t have a blanket reduction. What is important is that we’re going to focus on the most dangerous roads, revising them to have a safe and appropriate speed limit, and making it easier for local councils to get a safe and appropriate speed limit.”
Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Legget said speed limit drops across the country would severely restrict the movement of freight and the productivity of New Zealand’s economy, as well as having a major impact on the everyday lives of drivers.
“The speed limit is 90 for trucks, and the worry for us is you make that 60 you are making it much much harder for the New Zealand economy to be productive for people to be able to move their goods around the country – and the economy will suffer.”
Legget said he supported lowering the limit on dangerous ‘black spots’, but noted that speed was just one factor in safety and that the government should focus on improving the quality of the roads.
“Let’s take that and identify black spots, look at where speed is clearly a problem in particular roads, target those and fund safety improvements. But actually, it’s about road maintenance, road design and most critically, of course, it’s about better driver behaviour and training.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash said that the police were not looking for a “carte blanche” drop of the speed limit to 80km/h on every single road, but that they were looking at finding the “right speed for the road.”