Working together on the NZ Transport Agency’s rural schools safety initiative is bringing partners and school communities together to focus on improving safety outside rural schools.
NZ Transport Agency staff and key partners were welcomed with a waiata when they joined pupils at the Pyes Pa school assembly recently, to mark the school coming on board for the trial programme. The programme has already been in operation at other schools around the country and Pyes Pa on State Highway 36 is one of two Western Bay of Plenty schools added in late 2013 (the other being Pahoia School on State Highway 2).
NZ Transport Agency Bay of Plenty Highways Manager, Brett Gliddon, spoke to the children at the assembly, which was also attended by his Senior Safety Engineer, Adam Francis and representatives from the Bay of Plenty AA, Western Bay of Plenty Council, Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty Police and the NZ Road Transport Association.
The rural schools road safety programme identifies high risk rural schools on state highways, with a series of initiatives being implemented to improve the safety outside schools, particularly focussing on the risks of high-speed traffic. The aim of the trial is to reduce the risk of serious crashes involving vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists happening around rural schools.
One initiative is electronic variable message signs, which display a reduced speed limit during pick up and drop off times outside the schools. At Pyes Pa School, the speed limit reduces from 80 km/h to 40 km/h. At Pahoia School (on the intersection of Esdaile Road and SH2 north of Tauranga), the speed limit reduces from 100 km/h to 70 km/h.
Regular Police monitoring of drivers’ speeds in these areas is also part of the mix. On the day of the Pyes Pa School assembly, Police pulled over a driver who had been clocked travelling at 70km/h while the 40km/h sign was in operation.
Brett Gliddon says it’s great to work towards achieving safer speeds around local rural schools. “Everyone involved in this initiative recognises that this is a shared responsibility and that by working together to support each other on this, we can help keep students, teachers and parents safer.”
Pyes Pa School Principal, Michelle Thurlow, is delighted with the Transport Agency’s new variable speed signs outside the school. “The community is very pleased that the consultation and discussion that has taken place over the past year has resulted in this positive and proactive outcome. The safety of our students and their families are paramount and we are grateful to the Transport Agency for partnering with us to achieve this.”
Initial evaluations from some of the first trial schools around the country show that the variable speed limits have been effective in reducing vehicle speeds and improving driver behaviour around rural schools. The duration of the trial is expected to be up to two years, with the plan to expand the number of trial sites to 23 rural schools nationwide by the end of 2013. The Transport Agency will undertake regular monitoring to measure the success of the trials.
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