Motorway – Safety first on SH1

When the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway opens in late 2021, it will extend the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) 18.5km from the Johnstones Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth. It will be constructed to the highest safety standards, creating a safe, robust and resilient link to Northland.   

But that’s still more than two years away, and we can improve safety for all road users on the current SH1 before then by lowering the speed limit.

We’re targeting the road between L Phillips Road (near Sheepworld, north of Warkworth) and Puhoi because it is twisting, hilly and narrow. More than 23,000 vehicles travel the route each day, with vehicle numbers increasing. Between 2009 and 2018, there were 209 crashes, 13 people were killed and 45 people were seriously injured.

On this stretch of SH1, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) believes the 100km/h speed limit is too high and does not reflect the safe travel speed for the road. Even when speed doesn’t cause a crash, it always determines the outcome. A 20 km/h reduction vastly increases everyone’s chance of survival when things go wrong.

The speed reviews are part of a programme to review the country’s riskiest roads and set safe and appropriate speed limits in conjunction with communities.

We understand that communities know their roads. That’s why we are undertaking engagement with the community. We’ll use the feedback provided, along with technical assessments, to recommend what speed limits are best for these roads and then formally consult with the community on these proposed speed limits.

Like attitudes towards wearing seatbelts and drink-driving, we believe that as more people understand the impact of speed on the outcome of a crash, they will recognise the benefits of setting speed limits appropriate to the road and the winding, hilly terrain.

Slowing down will make only a marginal difference to your journey time.

We all think we are good drivers and don’t make mistakes, but lowering the speed limit is not just to protect drivers. It makes the road safer for all users, whether they’re our passengers, the schoolkids crossing the road, the people waiting for a bus, the motorcyclists without the same protection as a car, or the many people who walk, run, cycle or scoot to their destination. And, in fact, if we’re honest, we do all make mistakes out on the road from time to time. By lowering our travel speeds we can reduce the likelihood of those mistakes costing lives or limbs.

Steve Mutton,
NZ Transport Agency, Director Regional Relationships

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