This is a guest post from Glen Koorey. He is a senior traffic engineer and transportation planner with ViaStrada Ltd in Christchurch. He specialises in road safety and sustainable transport, with a particular focus on speed management.
Last September, I was holidaying in Victoria, Australia, driving around the Great Ocean Road. This winding two-lane scenic highway is similar to many of New Zealand’s rural roads. Interestingly though, most of it was signposted at 80km/h and a few of the trickier bits were even 60km/h. A similar approach was taken with many other rural side roads we encountered.
Sure, they also have a few 110km/h freeways but, with this kind of safety-first approach, it doesn’t surprise me that Victoria has a road fatality rate per capita more than 30% less than New Zealand’s. And for similar reasons, we need to take quite seriously the role of lower speeds in reducing our appalling road safety numbers.
In the current public debate about our increasing road deaths, many people have been quick to suggest all kinds of “solutions”. In particular, a lot of comments concentrate on improving either our road standards or the behaviour of our drivers. While both worthy aims, their primary focus is on reducing the number of crashes. However, a “safe system” approach to road safety is more interested in reducing the numbers of deaths and serious injuries (which is a combination of both the likelihood and severity of crashes), and that requires focusing on different things.
For example, straightening a winding road may reduce the number of crashes, but is often rather costly (and any remaining crashes may be more severe due to higher speeds). Conversely, installing low-cost barriers in the median and edges may not reduce crashes but reduces the severity of them by preventing head-on and run-off road collisions.
The practical reality is that we are dealing with a system that involves imperfect human beings, and our transport improvements budget is always limited. Therefore, there will always be some people who make a mistake or bad judgment, and there will always be roads of lesser quality. Improvements in these matters will not happen overnight either. That’s where lower speeds can improve crash outcomes now, even when other parts of the system aren’t perfect.
Speed gets a bad rap in this country, with people complaining about Police enforcement and reduced tolerances. These get pointed to as demonstrating why a focus on speed doesn’t improve safety. However, the Police are working within a system that still currently allows far too many roads to have speed limits well above what is safe for their environment.
Last month, the media reported on a crash near Burnham, resulting in two people hospitalised. The intersection crash site features dynamic speed signs that display a lower speed limit when a car approaches on the side-road. Now, one driver evidently failed to give way and shouldn’t have done that. And perhaps a re-designed intersection may have reduced the chances of this crash happening. However, irrespective of who or what caused the crash, the slower speeds asked of the main road driver evidently contributed to the outcome not being a fatal one.
This “safer speeds” approach is very prevalent in Europe, and explains why jurisdictions there are amongst the safest in the world in terms of road safety. Many European countries have 110km/h motorways (or higher), but their other rural roads (the bulk of their network) have limits of 60-80km/h. And in urban areas, 30-40km/h local streets are a core part of where people live, work and play. These examples should be emulated in New Zealand.
But we don’t even have to look overseas for evidence of the effectiveness of lower speeds. In New Zealand, we had our own natural experiment when the open road limit was reduced to 80km/h in 1973 and subsequently increased to 100km/h in 1985 (in both cases, with no change to the road network). Even accounting for other changes in traffic patterns and road regulations at the time, there was a clear reduction in rural crash casualties following the 1973 speed drop, particularly for fatalities (down 37% in the first year). Conversely after the 1985 increase, there was a similar uptick in crash statistics, particularly rural fatalities (up 23%).
It may not be prudent to advocate a blanket reduction in open road speed limits again, but clearly there are many sections of rural road that are totally unsuited to a 100km/h limit (NZ Transport Agency’s speed management data also tells us that the calculated “safe and acceptable speeds” for these roads are typically 80km/h or less). Without median protection, a head-on collision at these speeds is very often unsurvivable. While it may be cost-effective on our busier arterial routes to introduce such protective features for a 100km/h limit, for many local roads that is completely untenable within available roading budgets – far simpler to have motorists slow down.
Will simply introducing a lower speed limit on its own change traffic speeds? Typically, for every 10 km/h posted speed limit reduction, mean speeds drop by 2‐3 km/h. That might not seem much, but international research has found that a 1% reduction in speed generally results in a 2% reduction in injuries and 4% reduction in fatalities. So even a 5km/h drop in rural speeds (say, from reducing posted speeds from 100 to 80km/h) could mean 10% fewer injuries and 20% fewer fatalities there.
Lower speeds can make real improvements to both the likelihood and severity of traffic crashes in New Zealand. It’s not a remedy for all problems but, at a time when our road safety record is worsening, it’s a key tool that we haven’t made good use of yet. It’s time for all road controlling authorities to identify what parts of their network would greatly benefit from introducing lower speed limits.
Don’t underestimate the power of enforcement. You can get used to different speeds. Once the fines start coming in, you’ll find people adapt to the lower speed limit quite quickly.
This goes the other way as well. Evidently a lot of people are now used to driving faster than what is considered safe, even on relatively narrow and winding roads.
I tend to agree that enforcement is important, especially initially when we’re trying to cultivate behaviour/culture change.
We’ve noticed that the last national government had been starving road policing funds to build massive motorways, and are planning a post on this soon.
agree, if you know there is a fixed speed you slow down. We need a lot more of them.
I’m convinced. We need to show the Government and Councils there is broad support for safer speeds. Next month @CyclingActionNZ and others will launch a campaign for safer speeds. Will you join us?
This site had been campaigning for safer speeds for a long time, and i suspect you’ll find a lot of support here for such a campaign! All the best grease to your elbow.
Will cyclists slow down around pedestrians?
But even if you don’t you’re unlikely to kill anyone. Still less speed and a lot less mass than a car.
All that sharp metal, all that mass on such small contact surface, don’t think it cant kill or seriously harm because it can.
Care and safety in shared spaces seem not to apply to cyclists!
The Killer Cycle of Caerbannog has been responsible for many of the road fatalities over the last 10 years.
Yes they have. Having read some of the profound finger wagging replies on road safety to others Heidi, where’s the rewiring brains and safe speeds when it comes to idiots on push bikes?
What is safe about a cyclist doing at least 10 times the speed of a pedestrian? How do you think the human body reacts to blunt force trauma from those odds? They do kill and injure pedestrians.
But for some reason cyclists are always immune from any responsibility.
People pass dangerous because they want to get there faster and some people in cars want to play chicken with the train and end up second best that’s whey u stop and listing and bells and barriers if there is a fault ring up fast so that don’t have any accident’s with the trains
Ask the Dutch just how fatal those pushbikes are. There must be carnage galore on these streets.
Road fatalities per 100,000 people per year
New Zealand: 6.0
Color me skeptical.
Number of pedestrians killed by cyclists in the past 10 years in NZ: one
Number of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles in the past 10 years: I lost count after the first 300…
Great article Glen — thanks for contributing to this important discussion. I agree: road speeds in New Zealand are, in many places, too damned high. Most residential streets in Netherlands are 30km/hr.
On a side note, wouldn’t it be nice if the Herald ran stories like this — written by people with knowledge/experience of the subject matter — rather than anti-light rail rants by randoms with an axe to grind? Every time I go to their site there’s some new zombie trotting our tired old reasoning.
I live in hope that Auckland’s major newspaper finds a way to become a source of pride, rather than shame.
There a bit of unhealthy attitude that gets put out there by some newspapers, i don’t think it constructive and it creates part of the problem
It goes by the name of Hosking.
I agree with the article, NZ seems to have a fixed one size fits all approach to roads, Speed limits, design and feel of our road.
With the end result encouraging unsafe driving habits. Looking at overseas reducing speed limits is one of the many tools used, really NZ needs to step up and start making these changes.
When done right I’m not sure a lot of people would notice much difference in the sense of journey times.
Here’s a great post from Charles Marohn at Strong Towns about design speeds etc.
Thank you Glen for writing the article and putting it so clearly. It has long been a suspicion of mine that there are many in the NZ Police who realize that the speed limit is too high on many of our rural roads. So naturally they are trying to encourage people to slow down on them but the tools they have been given are not adequate.
They don’t have the funding to sit on every corner and issue tickets to people going too fast around them. So they sit on the straights on our busier stretches of roads because that is where they will catch the most people. However handing out tickets to someone doing 105 on a straight stretch of well built road is unlikely to help them slow down on a winding country road when he/she is probably already doing less than the 100km/hr speed limit so doesn’t consider their speed to be dangerous.
I got ticketed for 105 km/hr along the Waikato Expressway. I wrote in to argue that was a safe speed, the road was designed for 110 km/hr speeds, and they should move their troupes to somewhere where people are actually crashing. Of course they didn’t back down. Now that same road has a 110 km/hr limit.
Strictly policing a limit that is obviously wrong is just stupid, fix the speed limits first…
That is pretty much the only road in the country where the current limit is too low.
It’s called Strict Liability. They don’t have to prove that the limits make any sense or that they are needed or even that they will result in fewer crashes. They just have to be able to prove they gazetted the limits properly.
Why were you doing 105Km/hr when the limit was 100?
Was this deliberate or are you just lax in your control of speed?
If the penalty for this infringement had been something meaningful like a year’s driving-ban, would you still have flouted the limit?
Having received this ticket, will you now take more care to keep to the posted limits?
Now that the limit on the Waikato Expressway is 110, does that mean you will be doing 115?
Your honest answers to these questions could help you in the future.
And you always stop when the lights turn amber (providing you can stop safely).
And you don’t use a handheld cellphone while driving.
And you always come to a complete stop at a STOP sign.
And no doubt because you’re such an excellent driver you maintain a following distance of 1 car length for every 10 kph of speed when traveling behind another vehicle.
Who knew you’re such an expert driver?
And? What’s your point?
Yes. It’s really not hard.
Hi Dave, not the initial respondent but I was ticketed for doing 106 on State Highway 1 Waikato (not expressway) so thought I would respond.
a) I was overtaking a truck in passing lanes and sitting at 100 would quite possibly have resulted in me not actually finishing overtaking the truck before the passing lane ended as the truck had sped up over the 90k limit once in the passing lanes (yes I could have pulled back in and let the truck go by and sit behind it again, but then i’d be back behind it doing 90 again.). I was the last car in a stream of 10 that overtook the truck.
b) Deliberate & lax in speed control – in that I was slower than I thought. I was sitting just under 110 on my speedo, knowing it reads high. What I didn’t know was that it was the first day of the holiday speed period – I had seen no advertising of the date of the change in tolerance, and it was a lot earlier than I had expected it to be having not seen any promotion of it.
c) Yes, as I did not know that I was exceeding the tolerance.
d) Yes, as it made me aware that the lower tolerance was being enforced
e) No, more likely to be 108-112 depending on the exact moment, and how high my speedo reads.
I paid without complain, as I was over the limit, but it really was the most nonsensical speed ticket I have ever received (yes I have received 2 others, one in the second ever lower tolerance period doing 108 with a speed camera, and one I completely deserved, where I zoned out of noticing speed at 1am on the desert road and was doing 114). Dead straight road, in a stream of traffic, overtaking a truck, and only minutely over the limit. I had already been overtaken by a number of cars that were doing more than me, but obviously due to my road position, I was the easiest to pick up at that time. I don’t feel like that sort of policing makes the roads safer. But I can understand those that think otherwise.
Hi Mike. Sorry to hear you got pinged too. But the reality is you didn’t have to overtake that truck if the passing lane was coming to an end. 9 cars managing to overtake it ahead of you would have used up most of the available room, so you would have known you would be pushing it. If you had been the 11th car then presumably you wouldn’t have tried and you would have had to sit patiently behind the truck until the next passing lane (for which you would have then been first in the queue).
And the time penalty for sitting at 90Km/h instead of 100Km/h? Well if the next passing lane was 10Km away it would cost you a mere 36 SECONDS!! Absolutely not worth it.
Hi Dave, replying here, as I don’t seem to have a reply button below yours. I don’t disagree in principle, and I don’t want to get to far away form the point – i’m a big supporter of reducing a number of rural highways to 80, and a massive supporter for 40k suburban and 30k CBD limits. The issue was that the truck was speeding up to 100ish when hitting passing lanes, then dropping back down to 85-90 in regular lanes, hence the buildup of cars behind. I guess my point in the main is, could the officer that pulled me over waited 2 minutes and pulled over someone doing 110+? On that stretch of road I would suggest probably, thus it felt like a bit of a waste of resources.
Just wanted to give the perspective of someone similar to the poster you questioned, definitely don’t feel sorry for me, I was indeed over the limit, and at the end of the day it was ‘only’ $30 for the minor offence.
Think about school zones and most days I get from and to the bus I see cars do more then 60 k’s over in a 60 zone and today 1 car didn’t stop at a crossing when a person was trying to cross safely and one car gone through a red light and nearly crash in traffic hour
Would love a 30km/h speed limit on my street. Might reduce the number of twats doing 80km/h. Half of London runs on 20mph limits. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/20mph-limit-on-major-london-routes-in-radical-plan-to-save-lives-10102995.html
I agree that reducing speeds will improve outcomes. But posting lower speeds on roads which appear, to the vehicular road users, to support a higher speed isn’t the best way to do that. That’s why in the given example, a 20kph lower limit only resulted in a 5kph change in behaviour. (It would be good to know how that change is distributed, by the way – do most people only obey a little bit; or do half obey fully, some partly and some not at all; or …?)
When people’s concept of the speed they want to go at and the one shown on the sign is at odds, this can in itself create changes in behaviour, or in attention, etc., which might not be desirable. The best answer must surely involve improving the roads to provide cues that are consistent with the safer speed (which can be as cheap as paint or attractive as trees, etc.). It will no doubt involve a full range of political, engineering, human factors and other interventions, all considered together in a systems approach.
I realise that the post gave a nod to other design methods, but implied they were unachievable, or only achievable in the future, due to cost/politics. Actually they were problematised by putting the word solutions in inverted commas…Whilst I laud the sentiment here, I’m very concerned that it isn’t even achievable to just post a bunch of different speeds and not expect a shitstorm of opposition. You just don’t achieve changes to people’s beliefs and behaviours with a method which starts with eliciting reactionary opposition.
There is plenty of social science (psychology, human factors and ergonomics, behavioural economics) that can give a steer here. I think it’s achievable, but it is not ‘simple’ to have people slow down. The overseas examples of successes that were alluded to didn’t rely on just changing the speed limit signs, nor on just enforcing it better. Much as reductionism (yes, nerdy joke) can be appealing, a systems approach is required. I think the other “solutions” will have to be adopted at the same time as wide-spread speed limit reductions, or the desired outcomes won’t be achievable.
I get the feeling the ’20kph lower limit only resulted in a 5kph’ would not be the case in NZ. If you speed here you will get caught. There are only a small number of people who do more than 10 km/hr over any limit, regardless of what the road looks like.
We’ve been lowering speed limits in different parts of the country for years without too much outcry, I don’t see why it would be an issue in the future.
Yes I also think that we need our roads to look and feel and signal these lower sppeds rather than expecting people to suddenly start driving to a posted limit. We, very sadly, had a father on a bicycle killed in our suburb. One community fb post said, ” this death has made me think I usually do 60+ here but now I will try and do 50.” It shouldnt have to take that to have people drive to the conditions and the set limit.
That is sad.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to move on from needing to change the environment, though. Drivers currently have a link in their minds between a particular road environment, and a speed that is appropriate for that environment. The speeds are higher than is safe. We actually need to disconnect these links, by lowering the speed limits and enforcing that. We need to rewire everyone’s brains, not just change environments and achieve a lower speed as a result. Road modifications to change the feel of roads to bring down speeds is achieved by adding hazards. Instead, we need to bring down the basic expectation of allowable speed.
Agree, I think it is quite achievable too. In Christchurch the roads are generally wider than Auckland yet the drivers are generally slower. I Wellington the roads are generally narrower than Auckland yet they still drive at the same pace.
The relationship between road environment and speed is not absolute.
Good points. It can be done. But more successfully if all the aspects of the system are addressed together. There’s no simple solution that can be enacted alone without considering the impacts on other parts of the system.
Agree that speeds on most of the network need to come down – the government or at least the various transport agencies also know this and agree with it – but generally won’t come out and say so directly. The issue is always political acceptability. Kiwis like driving fast even if it kills some of us, and no one in recent memory has been willing to take the step of changing the default speed limits of 50 for urban and 100 for rural for fear of the political backlash. To their credit one of the various speed programmes or strategies (the names and branding keep changing) that the transport agencies were pushing a couple of years back was to drop the default rural limit to 90, and in a partial tradeoff to allow the best quality roads to have a limit of 110. But where they ended up because of the politics was the higher 110 limit was introduced but the defaults stayed the same.
Patrick, If you want a simple easy change to advocate then changing the default speed limits in the Rule made by the Minister see 3.4 in https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/rules/setting-of-speed-limits-2017/land-transport-rule-setting-of-speed-limits-2017/#34 would be the way to go. This sets the default limit for urban roads at 50 and rural roads at 100 – default as in unless a road controlling authority has specifically set a different limit.
If you wanted to go further you could restrict the available speed limits – either by saying for example that 100 isn’t an option or by making it harder to have that limit as 3.2 of the Rule does already for limits of 70, 90 and 110. If progressing down this path there would need to be some thought given to transitional issues and whether or how you would change limits that have been specifically considered and set, but that now you believe were no longer appropriate. But all of this is eminently achievable and would have some real safety benefits.
Under the Speed Management Guide, there is no default speed limit. We need to radically speed up the implementation of this. The previous government wanted Councils to do 5% of necessary changes per year, this isn’t good enough, it needs to be 5% minimum or no funding for other projects with funding automatically available for up to 20%.
The guide is just that a guide – it isn’t the law. The Rule is the law and it does have default limits. Changing a limit following the process in the guide gets you a good outcome but it is a long, slow, and relatively expensive process.
I think you’re committing the fallacy of equivocation here.
In the terms of that rule ‘default speed limit’ is the speed limit if no other speed limit is posted. Your comments incorrectly imply that ‘default’ means ‘usual’ or ‘standard’. The default urban speed limit in the UK is 30 mph, but they still have tens of thousands of miles of 20 mph streets and roads.
If you open a new road, you do not set the speed limit to the default speed limit and then try and justify any change. If you open a new road, you have to consider what the speed limit should be.
The problem is that it is too hard to *change* a speed limit, not that it is too hard to change a speed limit *from* the default.
I agree that we can make this easier. One way would be to give RCAs blanket authourity on specific situations. Such as allowing all roads that are cul de sacs to be dropped as low as 30km/h with no consultation. Or allowing the speed limit to be reduced on any road where the IRR, PR and CR (from the SMG) all justify a lower speed limit without consultation.
Thanks Sailor Boy – we are in agreement on what the meaning of default is – the limit that applies if no other limit has been set. But because many roads haven’t been specifically assessed the limits in place on them are the default limits. And actually if you open a new road the speed limit is the default limit unless you go through the process in the Rule and the guide to consider, propose and then make a specific limit. So an RCA opening new roads in say a residential subdivision if they didn’t do anything (and many don’t) the speed limit would automatically be 50. If the relevant clause in the rule was changed to say 40 then the speed limit in the next new subdivision would be 40 unless an RCA actively decided to look to make the limit something different and given the power of inertia the net result would me most new urban roads would be coming in at 40.
Fair point. I’d think the better solution would be to force RCAs to assess all new roads using the SMG, but the effect would likely be the same.
I feel like the historic political unacceptability of lower speed limits is changing.
After the Kaikoura earthquake, long chunks of the inland detour route were lowered from 100 to 80, and the public were surprisingly accepting of that. Christchurch is in the process of consulting on lowering speed limits in swathes of residential areas to 30 or 40, and from what I’ve seen in social media circles there seems to be mainly positive support. There’s the occasional positive article in the smaller papers too, this one on the inner city 30 limit: https://www.star.kiwi/2018/01/central-citys-30kmh-speed-limit-sees-less-crashes-injuries/
What I noticed in Europe is there didn’t seem to be any advisory speed limit signs. I’m thinking the post road speed limit is linked to the weakest design speed of route. Like if there is a 60km/h corner then the posted speed limit is 60km/h well before the corner, not advised at the corner like in NZ
Here example where I’ve benchmarked main road through central Switzerland to Karangahaka gorge
Yes but that obviously doesn’t apply to me! I’m a good driver: it’s the other bad drivers on the road that need to be looked at. Not me – I can drive as fast as I like and I’ve never killed myself – not yet.
Fines related to relative wealth?
No, according to comments online, the real villains are people driving under the speed limit. They apparently force otherwise law abiding citizens to take crazy risks to ensure they can drive at or above the speed limit.
Either that or tourists. Nothing to do with Kiwi drivers who, like you are perfect drivers. Apparently (again according to online comments) if only everyone drove perfectly like the person commenting, we could have everyone driving at 150km/h. Who knew??
There’s a lot of effort required to determine someones wealth. It would make a lot more sense to beef up demerit points, loosing your licence is the same no matter your wealth.
Any idea when the fines were last reviewed though? Just having a look online it looks like the same fine for 16-20 km over that I received about 15 years ago!
I seem to remember a survey where something like 80% of respondents considered themselves above average drivers.
I’m constantly amazed at the political inertia on this. Not just NZTA but regional transport authorities too. I need look no further than just past my front gate.
Rural Auckland so it responsibility of Auckland council.
We live on a 100km/hr road that is definitely unsafe at that speed (single lane bridge, blind & off-camber corners, blind straights – dips and hillocks in the road, lots of recreators – horses, mtn-bikes, kids). And that comes off the main road that’s 80km/hr. Nearby roads are either 100, 80, 70, 50 or even combinations.
It’s a mess, inconsistent and unsafe.
A review by council recently said there was no problem. What rubbish.
Agree, there are many 100kmh roads on the fringes of urban areas in NZ, often with multiple driveways, recreational users etc. These would be the prime target for a reduction to 80kmh.
Which road Bob?
Only my late grandmother called me Bob….I don’t normally respond to that
Ararimu Valley Road 100km/hr
Waikoukou Valley Road 100km/hr
Old North Road 80km/hr
Taupaki Road 70km/hr
Oraha Road 80, 60, 50
Sorry! Misread your name there.
Completely agree that the speed limits out that way are bonkers.
Interesting to read in the new AT Transport Design Guide that higher speeds need to be consistent, and lower speeds should be variable. That is the safest combination, apparently.
So open road speed limits should be consistent and urban roads could be anything, including 10 and 15 km/hr cycle streets.
oops, I made a mistake…Oraha road has 80, 70, 50 then 60 in the space of 2.3km. This is the road with one of the few successful special housing areas coming on board so I imagine the 50 area will be expanded somewhat.
But getting back to the point of the original blog post, I concur generally reduced speeds need to be a part of the solution (along with cell-phone policing, etc.).
Great post, Glen. First, can I suggest we keep urban and rural speed discussion separate? Both need to be tackled, but there are big differences.
NZTA has changed the Setting of Speed Limits Rule so that we can have a new approach. It is now possible for Authorities to get on with Speed Management Policies (piloted in Waikato) that allow systematic, nationally-comparable treatment of rural roads. Either set a safe speed that looks right to drivers, compared with what they experience elsewhere and what they see in front of them, or fix the dangerous bits of the road so that consistent speed limit works. Safe speed may be 60 or 80 (seldom 70 or 90). Then a longer programme of highway improvements (wide centrelines, wire rope median barriers, 2+1 passing lanes) can allow safe 100 km/h highways.
There will be issues with journey times that do need to be looked at, both for long distance car travellers and freight. The actual effect of lower maximum speed on any long trip needs to take account of the initial journey time, which is likely below 100 km/h through the whole journey. And get over the message – it’s better to be late than become ‘late’.
Why are 70 and 90 not safe speeds?
70 and 90 could be safe speeds, but the important part of Rob’s comment is “a safe speed that looks right to drivers, compared with what they experience elsewhere and what they see in front of them”. This is only possible with bigger steps in the speed limit. I understand that the NZTA considered 90, 70 instead of 100, 80, 60, but found that 100, 80, 60 was better suited to a country with bugger all rural motorways.
Yep, 70 and 90 can be safe.
My point for including that is that there is a confusing array of speed limits in a very small area, not that they were unsafe speeds in general. The most open and straightest road near here has a 70 speed limit.
The two 100 limit roads in this area are entirely unsuited to those speeds.
One of the 80 roads is sort of OK at that speed.
The road with 80, 70 and 50 in a 2.5km stretch is just plain stupid (and it leads onto the 60km/hr SH16).
Just this morning I was thinking how this is a great example of the authorities trying to maximise speed for drivers.
Totally support. In town, NZ should have a default, mandatory speed limit of 30k/h. 50k/h should require a special case, including high quality protected cycle lanes on both sides. Speeding, a fine of 10% of your income on first offence and automatic car crushing on the second.
Great article, but let’s extend it a bit. As well as targeted lower speed limits (and increased limits for appropriate grade separated motorways), let’s also kill this commonly held idea that there is a threshold of 10km/h (or 4km/h in the holidays) above the speed limit.
Let’s make it that if you are going 1km/h over the speed limit, you get a ticket. Then let’s make the fines quite a lot bigger. Say 0-5km/h $50, 6-10km/h 150, 11-20km/h $400, etc.
Then police it. More speed cameras, more cops on the roads and potentially install average speed cameras like they use in the UK. Way more fixed speed cameras should be installed in both urban and rural areas.
Then watch drivers’ attitudes (including one’s own) change. Suddenly that number in the red circle will become something that you never really do for fear of getting a nasty fine. Cars in urban streets that are posted at 50km/h will tend to go slower than that, rather than (at times) up to 70km/h.
Also change the rules around school buses to be the same as that in the US – you must not pass a school bus while it is stopped – the current limit is 20km/h but everyone ignores it. With this, a dashcam on every bus would capture every offender that decides to pass when the bus is stopped. Handed off to police on a weekly basis.
Then get thinking about rights of way on the road (excluding motorways of course). Give pedestrians and cyclists right of way on all roads at all times – in other words if you have a crash involving a cyclist or a pedestrian, you have to work very hard to prove that you were not in the wrong. Increase the minimum fines and make reparation payments compulsory.
You can imagine the uproar in the Herald especially, but the end result would be a lot fewer people dying on our roads – and I think we all want that don’t we?
+1 to 0km/h tolerances and more cameras. It’s a limit not the target.
I’d disagree in that it is pretty much impossible to drive without occasionally breaking the road rules. Whether it be going slightly over the speed limit, not indicating for at least 2 seconds, following slightly too close, etc. Humans are humans. I would imagine that most people break at least one road rule every time they drive no matter how careful they are.
Happy for average speed over a distance to have no tolerance, but instantaneous speed is a bit too pedantic for my liking.
I’d suggest if you occasionally break the speed limit the chances of doing this while passing a speed camera would be very low. Most people who get tickets are likely regularly above the limit and by the law of averages eventually get caught.
The problem with a tolerance is it effectively becomes the limit. People can drive at 107kmh knowing they will only occasionally cross 110km and are unlikely to get caught.
Just set the limit 10km/hr lower. (Actually 5km/hr is probably a better tolerance).
..or leave the limit where it is with zero tolerance, people can adjust their speeds accordingly to ensure they don’t go over.
It would achieve basically the same thing without playing the silly game we currently do where we have a maximum limit, then an allowance above the maximum limit.
“I’d disagree in that it is pretty much impossible to drive without occasionally breaking the road rules.”
I’ll tell you what. You give me a route and I’ll do it on a GPS and prove that it’s possible to do I without speeding at all. If you occasionally drive up to 5km/h over the limit, then you are aiming to drive 5km/h too fast for your ability.
I think if you do that, you’ll find that the aggression from drivers around you (mainly behind you) will make it pretty hard to drive in a normal way.
There’s currently a conflict between what’s allowed (max 50) and what’s socially acceptable (preferably at least 55). So you’ll have to balance your aversion for fines with your aversion for aggressive behaviour and the corresponding risk of accidents.
Yes it is definitely possible to do once. How about if you do that same trip every day for a year or two?
I understand your logic, but we are just human and I still don’t see that a small tolerance is really that bad (granted the current tolerance is too high).
I’d rather they just focused on getting the limits right rather than pedantically enforcing stupidly incorrect limits.
“I think if you do that, you’ll find that the aggression from drivers around you (mainly behind you) will make it pretty hard to drive in a normal way.”
I don’t see how that is relevant. You said it was impossible. I said that it was possible. This comment from you clearly concedes that it is possible, but you wouldn’t do it due to the behavior of other drivers. That behavior would change if everyone knew that there was no tolerance.
“Yes it is definitely possible to do once. How about if you do that same trip every day for a year or two?”
I don’t drive everyday, but I have done this on every trip to sports practice and games for the last year, every trip to Raglan, every trip to Bunnings. This isn’t difficult, anyone could do it once they decide they don’t want to speed. And honestly, I don’t notice the travel time difference, it’s usually seconds rather than minutes.
It’s relevant, because slowing down by itself is not the point. The point is to have less accidents. You can easily slow down to, say, 10 km/h below the limit, but if that means other drivers will do near-suicidal things to overtake you, then you haven’t actually made the road around you safer. Quite the opposite.
That’s a fair point. I struggle with how I feel about that. I know that if I’m driving at what I feel is a safe seed and someone does something stupid to pass me, it’s not my fault. I also know that by speeding up I could have prevented it.
I’ve decided on the first approach, but also allowing others to pass at any opportunity, including where I have to stop to do so. I recognize that others may make a different choice, but I want to demonstrate that it is possible.
Yeah it’s really hard to opt out of a crappy driving culture.
I draw the line when I get overtaken while turning left on a slip lane.
@Jimbo. It’s good to know the correct rules to start with. Had this in my mind to reply to this for a number of weeks as was irking me (funnily didn’t realise same person I just replied to with another post): You need to indicate at least THREE seconds before changing lanes / turning etc:
Admittedly not many people do it very well. I think the exception is roundabouts where do the best you can due to limited time etc.
If there is specific guidance for how to indicate at roundabouts, that must override the general rule, surely? The road code is really clear about how to indicate there (not that you’d think so watching drivers try to do it).
Yes here: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/about-driving/giving-way-at-roundabouts/
Seems the exception guidance is just for travelling straight ahead. Certainly no excuse for exiting at the first left of a roundabout
The bit I was thinking of was: “If you are going ‘straight’ through a roundabout:
– don’t signal as you come up to the roundabout
– signal left as you pass the exit before the one you wish to take. At some small roundabouts it may not be possible to give three seconds warning, but it is courteous to give as much indication as you can.
Also interesting is:
“Look out for cyclists who may find it difficult to maintain a turn signal on a roundabout and are exempt from this requirement.” – whew yes that is a bit hard sometimes.
+2. I think we should take fixed speed cameras away from the police and make them a Ministry of Transport/Ministry of Justice problem. I don’t think the Police need or deserve the negativity that goes with them.
Great idea. Then Police also become a stakeholder in installation as they can reduce their spend on road policing as a result.
+1 +1 +1 +1
I Like this- I have heard though from an ex police officer that part of the reasoning for tolerances was due to the knowledge that the machines accuracy was always open to challenge. Does anyone know if they are now more accurate/ require less frequent calabrations?
But, for clarification: do we actually have an official ‘tolerance’?
Because there’s always another margin in play: speed traps are not able to measure your speed exactly. If a measurement says 51 km/h, it’s actually more like “I’m 99% sure the speed is between 51 – 6 and 51 + 6 km/h” (*). So to avoid incorrectly ticketing drivers, the lower bound of that interval, 45 km/h is used.
Fixed speed cameras: in Europe it’s common to see cameras checking both speed and red light running on every major intersection. People will stop for red lights. People will not speed. And, since this is New Zealand, city streets will be at least a bit more boring for those retarded boy racers.
(*) I’ve made up those numbers, but IIRC 6 km/h is a common error margin for speed radars.
There is no legal tolerance, however, the police frequently announce what tolerance they are policing.
As long as there are twisties to have fun on I don’t really care about the general speed limits.
Yes there are certainly plenty of roads out there that shouldn’t be 100km/h (especially a lot of rural goat track roads).
I am however not going to support a reduction on main highways (even if they are only 2 lane roads). Other countries might have the luxury of reducing the speed limits on these type of roads (due to their good coverage of divided highways/motorways). NZ does not have this. You could say that doesn’t matter however if that is the case then why 80km/h? Why not reduce all roads to 40km/h which is considered to be the limit of not being a fatal accident? – Why? Because time = life and time = money.
I’ll give you a rough example – 400 road deaths pa = roughly 20,000 man years wasted.
Meanwhile delays/slowing people down might result in (conservative estimates) an average over 2.5million daily vehicle users of 20 mins extra for 300 days a year = 34,700 man years wasted.
So you end up with a difference of 14,700 man years wasted (and this number could be much higher).
Yes this is overly simplified but gives an interesting view on things.
On top of this there is the missed productivity/family time etc for those people.
Absolutely implement safety measures (like barriers, straightening corners/adding shoulders), and public campaigns (keep left unless passing, allow other vehicles to pass, don’t impede the flow of traffic, indicate, don’t run red lights, as well as the drink/drug/tired driving campaigns).
There are a lot of other things that could reduce our road toll:
Make cycling safer
Better safety features at railway crossings
getting trucks off the road and onto rail instead (especially logging trucks)
build more passing lanes – on our main highways there should be passing lanes (even if only small ones) regularly – if people can pass safely without having to risk a head-on collision that will have a huge impact.
I genuinely believe (as do a lot of people out there) that this speed is the devil approach to road safety by the NZTA and NZ police has had a negative impact on the road toll! Why? It is a mathematically proven fact that the less amount of time you spend on the wrong side of the road overtaking someone the less likely you are to have a head-on collision (the types which tend to be the most fatal).
What we now have in NZ is a situation where people want (and rightly should be able) to pass a slow driver but feel compelled to stick to the speed limit when passing them. This means instead of passing quickly in a matter of seconds (around 3 seconds if overtaking at 30km/h faster than the other vehicle eg 110km/h passing 80km/h), drivers now take a lot longer to do the same task (over 5 seconds) and cover 150m of road to do so versus 90m. This extra 60m of distance is hugely important in reducing the chance of a head on collision.
These figures are even worse when overtaking a long vehicle such as a truck where the difference in road covered is around 110m for the same speeds.
The human factor in all of this is that if a driver is driving at a comfortable speed rather than being frustrated behind a slow driver then they will of course be more likely to be more careful and have a faster journey (less tired too).
Perhaps we could introduce a speed limit of 90km/h in the left lane at passing lanes to put an end to the all to common situation of a slow driver doing 70km/h speeding up to 100km/h at passing lanes (and due to the above mentioned fear people have of not temporarily exceeding 100km/h nobody is able to pass – where it is actually safe to do so).
“why 80km/h?”Because up to 80km/h in car on car crash the modern car is designed to save humans from death.
Bollocks Peter H. Cars are designed to save lives as much as possible but there is no specific design standard to say you should survive a head-on collision at 80km/h. In fact you are only about 50:50 at that speed unless in perfect conditions with the very latest and safest car. In any case you will still be injured. So again why 80km/h? 40km/h is much safer but completely impractical as it would take 20 hours to drive from Auckland to Wellington.
I can’t say I’ve observed a slowing down of overtaking speeds, if anything an increase as a result of their being more powerful cars than there used to be.
Like you I put the foot down when I overtake, yet I have never had a speeding ticket, I think you are seriously overstating the risk of getting a ticket for doing this.
I wouldn’t cross 110 km/hr when overtaking, I bet a cop would ticket you if they could. It does make it feel very unsafe though being on the wrong side of the road for sustained periods of time.
Maybe there should be a known higher limit for overtaking. It is quite obviously safer to go a fair amount faster than the limit if it gets you back to the correct side quicker.
I notice it on a daily basis. People who in the past (in much less powerful and slower cars I might add) would have overtaken are now too timid. They hesitate and then when they finally go they do so slowly taking up a huge amount of distance and nearly have a head-on collision. The amount of near misses I have seen the past 5 years or so compared to a decade or so ago is staggering. People now bunch up behind a slow vehicle also meaning that if the next vehicle or two aren’t up for overtaking the car behind that now has 3 vehicles to pass rather than 1-2 at a time.
The police used to use their “discretion” and were fairly flexible on overtaking vehicles as they understood that it is far safer to overtake quickly than slowly. Problem now is that they have their quotas but also they have been told to reduce their tolerance of speed (particularly with these zero/reduced tolerance campaigns).
I agree regarding bunching. When I drove tractors while working for a baling contractor as a student we often traveled in convoy between farms, it was drilled into us to leave a decent gap between each machine so cars could pass us one by one if need be.
Have to disagree with your rationale on higher-speed overtaking being safer. Reason is that allowing higher speed overtaking will simply encourage more people to attempt more ‘close-shave’ manoeuvres in the foolish belief that masterful judgement and sheer speed will enable them to pull it off.
There is actually damn all justification for most overtaking. Motivation is usually impatience or arrogance, with little gained in terms of time. Meanwhile the risks imposed on self and others are huge.
Overtaking on the wrong side of the road should be illegal. The negatives far outweigh the positives.
Close shave manoeuvres would still be illegal – there is a minimum amount of free road space required during the whole manoeuvre.
I disagree that there is little gained in terms of time. The difference between 90km/hr and 100 km/hr from Auckland to Wellington is 40 minutes
Very few vehicles will drive Auckland to Wellington on a given day and most that do will have a speed limit of 90kmh anyway.
Even if you are doing this trip there are numerous passing lanes so no one is ever going to be stuck behind a slow car for the entire trip even if they don’t overtake in the opposing lane.
I don’t think there is a single passing lane from the Tauranga turn off to Tirau if you go via SH 27 (which is the quickest way at present). That is quite a long way.
I do agree that a lot of people do pass unnecessarily, but disagree that there are never times you need to do it.
Yes, I noticed that coming back from holiday last week. I imagine it is because NZTA doesn’t want to invest when a reasonable amount of this traffic will move to the expressway once it is complete.
However, this road could really do with the occasional passing lane even without that extra traffic.
SH3 and SH4 both seriously lack passing lanes and have a large amount of trucks on them (dairy, logging, freight) – this is one of the main North South Routes (as well as to New Plymouth, but is also a vital road during winter when SH1 is often closed by snow etc).
Sure not too many people would drive Auckland to Wellington on a given day but there are plenty around that do 4-5 hour drives. @100km/h you can drive 500km in 5 hours. @90km/h you can drive 450km in 5 hours and @80km/h you can drive 400km in 5 hours. It most certainly makes a big difference (and many drive even slower – 70km/h etc)
Sure you can pass one slow driver but on a lot of our roads within a few minutes you are stuck behind another one (be it an inconsiderate driver or a legally limited truck etc).
I agree SH4 could do with some passing lanes, however it isn’t the main route between Wellington and Auckland, it’s just one option. My point still stands that the main route between Akl and Wellington has numerous passing lanes.
Not sure what you are on about regarding SH3, there are three passing lanes in each direction between Otorohanga and the SH4 turn-off.
I don’t think there is anywhere in NZ you could legally drive 500km in five hours, even with no traffic on the road, so I’m not sure what relevance that has.
Jezza the shared stretch of highway SH3 and 4 is where the few passing lanes are. After that neither SH4 or SH3 have many down to Waiouru or to New Plymouth. Both need at least an extra 3 passing lanes in each direction.
As for SH4 it should actually be the fastest route between Auckland and Wellington as it is more direct however due to the excessive corners and lack of passing lanes it often takes longer than SH1.
Ok sure not really possible to drive 500km @100km/h but if we had more passing lanes and less inconsiderate driving then you should be able to get reasonably close.
The same applies for the 500km @ 80km/h as you will likely have parts that are slower than 80 too.
“The difference between 90km/hr and 100 km/hr from Auckland to Wellington is 40 minutes”
It’s impossible to average 100km/h on this route, so your argument is meaningless.
Ok then, the difference between averaging 60 km/hr and 70 km/hr is 1.5 hours. Is that more meaningful?
You wouldn’t drive at 60 or 70, you would take the train…hang-on what’s the problem with that logic?
No, it’s still not meaningful. Let’s say you are currently averaging 85km/h; most of that trip you are probably already doing less than 90km/h, so your hypothetical blanket speed reduction to 90km/h might only drop your average speed by 1-2 km/h.
If we take the more realistic example on SH1 of dropping the speed to 80, only at the worst locations where you are already doing the lowest speeds, and improving the safety performance elsewhere, then the outcome is similar: 1-2 km/h
Except your driver who’s doing 80km/h or whatever will also more than likely slow down to even slower speeds quite often so the speed differential is still likely to be similar.
Except that research demonstrates that this simply isn’t true.
There’s one important point you have to consider when overtaking: most people will speed up if someone tries to overtake them. Sometimes by a lot.
This is easy to observe on an expressway or motorway. Just keep your speed, wait until the car you tried to overtake pulls back in front of you, and you can go back to the left.
This is why, on a dual lane road, you have to keep full throttle until you finish your overtaking manoeuvre. Otherwise, again, the car you’re overtaking will pull back beside you, and when that happens you’re in big trouble.
If you overtake a car going 80 you should assume that manoeuvre will end with that car going 110, and you going 115. Conclusion: probably you’ll want to stay behind that car. Don’t be stupid.
I drive a reasonable amount on the open road and hardly ever see what you describe.
However, I often use cruise control on the expressway and it is amazing how much people’s speeds vary.
If it’s has 2 lanes or 3 lanes or 4 lanes used them and use the passing lane and still not wise to do that even try over taking truck and trailer u be speeding more then 5 Kph and when its wet u spin out at high speed when the roads are to wet
The problem is really the “sometimes by a lot” part. It won’t happen every time but you can’t predict it and you have no control over what the driver in front of you is going to do.
+1 Roeland. Too many inconsiderate drivers out there and the police turn a blind eye to it despite it being illegal (breaking 2 laws – failing to allow a vehicle to pass, and impeding the reasonable flow of traffic).
“I am however not going to support a reduction on main highways (even if they are only 2 lane roads)” – which is why I said if it is a main arterial then it is probably justifiable (in terms of benefit/cost) to provide the features needed to support a 100km/h limit (although until then you might have to slow down). But I’d estimate that at least 90% of our rural roads have fewer than 2000 vehs a day – they don’t warrant that kind of investment.
Brilliant piece – thanks Dr Glen! I see France is reducing the speed limit on all undivided rural roads to 80 km/h…
Meanwhile in New Zealand, the poor people of Pareora have to start a petition for a safer speed limit…
A 4 axle truck went past me on SH18 today at above the (GPS indicated) 96km/h I was traveliing at. The driver then went through the red light on Lincoln Road (of course). Enforcement is crucial.
no one knows how to drive and it all ways ends up that way even on streets or road or sate high ways and even u turns course accidents to that’s whey public transports for to avid all that but they just want to drive coursing accidents and having death tolls and running people over people don’t stop for people that are crossing the road on the pedestrian crossing and when green man goes for the people to cross stupid people go when its red arrow or straight light ones people still use there phones while driving and theirs no cops around when u need one and the stupid people are risking even life and theirs and its beater to pull over if they see a cop its not a game like need for speed hot pursuit its real and that’s when they kill them self or others on the road or street there is no reset on that if it happens that’s whey drive save and drive to conditions and speed limit and don’t go if its red and report the traffic light if it’s not working if people crossing on the pedestrian crossing then stop just look both ways when coming up to one to check
All good advice.
From the AA Driving Test Ezy book: “When possible, keep your speed constant at or near the speed limit, but do not go 5 kph over the speed limit.” And “If you over-emphasize safety by travelling more than 5 kph under the speed limit when unnecessary, you may cause other road users to become impatient with you… This style of driving ccan lead to faults building up against you which could eventually result in a failed test”
So, the speed limit IS a target, according to the authorities, and even inexperienced drivers aren’t allowed to drive below it by more than 5 kph.
I would like whoever made this standard policy to realise that it is causing deaths. The speed limit should be a limit. Tolerances are only required because people are being forced to go so close to the limits. Driving is a privilege, and should be as slow as required to ensure noone dies.
I would write:
Driving in a city centre:
– a beginner will drive 20 to 30 km/h, very carefully.
– an intermediate will drive around 40 km/h, with a bit more confidence
– an experienced driver will drive 20 to 30 km/h, very carefully.
when they ever failed and how they get there license if they still pass and still cant know how to drive they need a new drive course that’s not on real roads and make it look like it and with cones hit a cone and fail some thing like that and traffic lights and zebra crossings with cut outs look like people when they pass with out a single fail then do other test add a bus stop and a cop car so they know when its excellent with out fail then they ready to go on the real road
I’ve also heard someone explain that she learned to parallel park by practising first with a radio controlled car, which is quite a good idea. In fact, if you could get a radio controlled car with a trailer, that’d be quite good for practising backing a trailer.
– The Burnham crash – all rural priority cross roads of SHs should be removed (offset tee) or have speed humps on the minor approach & solar powered street lights. Speed humps on the main road as well if its a bad rural road intersection – as is done where I live.
– Reduce the rural speed limits to 90 & 80 kmh immediately on non SHs.
– Introduce travel time speed cameras everywhere – the fines will pay for themselves
– Require fines to be paid before you can reregister your car – as where I live
– Introduce congestion tolls in urban areas – will delay need for more motorways for awhile. Use the funds to provide wire median barriers & passing lanes on all SHs instead
Who was it that was pinged for doing 185 kph through Waimate several years back just so she could get to a rugby game?
I’m all for lower speeds, but also aware that there’s public perception that needs managing (with the Nats gleefully pointing out any nanny state tendencies of the current administration).
To me the way to manage this would be to announce a wide number of speed increases on motorways, and tag on “and as part of the package the MoT will be actively reviewing and changing speed limits on a wide range of other roads to improve safety.”
That is exactly what happened when the Cambridge section and TEL went to 110. The media just completely ignored the decreases.
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