Lowering speed limit won't decrease road toll, say police

April 17, 2018

Lowering speed limit won't decrease road toll, say police

Constable Hamish McPhillips says lowering speed limits is only part of the puzzle for shrinking the road toll. Photo: Tiffany Salmond

Lowering the speed limit to 70km/h on rural roads is not the answer to reducing New Zealand’s road toll, according to police.

A recent report by the 59-nation International Transport Forum suggested a 70km/h speed limit on all rural roads without a median barrier.

The road toll for 2018 is predicted to top last year's, with statistics from the Ministry of Transport showing a marginally higher toll compared to this time last year.

The high road toll has been prompted questioning the safety of New Zealand’s speed limits, in particular the 90km/h rural road limit.

New Zealand Police Constable Grant Burrows says reducing speed limits could lower the risk of fatalities but it would not make a huge difference overall.

“Other factors are definitely more of an influence like young drivers, alcohol and road design.

“One of the main reasons people crash is because they aren’t following the rules.

“So even if we lower the speed limit it is still up to the individual to make sure they are driving safely,” says Constable Burrows.

Constable Hamish McPhillips shares a similar view: “I think it might save a few lives but I believe that our average quality of roads and small country roads in New Zealand is a huge factor in the amount of deaths we have.

“The bigger problem is we can’t eliminate the risk takers and the idiots on our roads who put everyone, including themselves, in danger,” says Mr McPhillips.

AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen says the organisation does not support blanket speed limit reductions.

“We have done 20 surveys of our members over the last five years showing more than 80 per cent opposed the idea of lowering the open road speed limit to 90km/h."

Harry Wilson, NZ Transport Agency’s director of safety and environment, says the increasing number of deaths on our roads is unacceptable.

“We need to create a safe transport system which accommodates for human error so that simple mistakes don’t result in avoidable deaths and injuries on our roads.

“For some roads this will likely result in current speed limits being reduced to improve safety.”

Mr Wilson says NZTA is looking at areas where improved speed limits could provide a significant reduction in death and serious injuries on the state highway network.

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