Transport planner Bevan Woodward, of Point Wells, is calling for speed limit reductions to reduce the road death toll.
In the 12 months to April 12 this year, 395 people have been killed on New Zealand roads, 63 more than the same period 12 months ago.
Bevan says 75 per cent of deaths from crashes occur on rural roads with an open speed limit. He would like to see a number of roads reduced from 100kmph to 80kmph. His number one priority is State Highway 1, between Puhoi and Warkworth.
“Safety technology in cars isn’t good enough to prevent deaths when people crash at 100kmph, but chance of survival at 80kmph is far greater,” Bevan says. “Drivers will always make mistakes and that is never going to change, but lower speeds can make the end result less tragic.”
Bevan says a speed reduction will also give people more time to react.
“So much time and productivity is lost when an accident blocks SH1 so slowing down could actually save time.
“Slower speeds do not increase congestion either. The Dome Valley is a great example of a road where speed reduction has been a real success.”
Locally, there are a number of roads where Bevan would like to see speed reduced.
“The speed on Matakana Valley Road and the road out to Leigh definitely needs to be dropped and any gravel road, regardless of location.”
He would also like to see some residential zones reduced from 50kmph to 30kmph.
“This not only makes it safer for drivers but will also encourage other methods of travel such as cycling and walking.”
Bevan says ultimately he would like to see median barriers on roads where possible to separate traffic, but sees speed reduction as an easy option for the immediate future. He has approached a number of groups including the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), Police and trucking organisations to discuss the matter.
“There has definitely been interest in the idea, but I think a lot of people are worried about public backlash if we reduce these limits.”
NZTA director of safety and environment Harry Wilson says they are working to reduce the damage caused by crashes on state highways.
“We need to create a safe transport system, which accommodates human error so that simple mistakes don’t result in avoidable deaths and injuries on our roads,” he says.
“NZTA is looking at where improved speed management could provide a significant reduction in death and serious injuries on the state highway network. This work is in its early stages, and we are currently scoping a national speed management programme.”