New electronic speed limit signs will slow motorists to 60km/h as they travel on State Highway 1 (SH1) past Tokoroa’s Amisfield School from this week, boosting safety for students as they start the school term.
The signs allow the school to temporarily reduce the speed limits outside the gate during pick-up and drop-off times.
Traffic going past Amisfield School will be slowed from 80km/h to 60km/h from 8.25am until 9am before school starts, and from 2.55pm until 3.15pm, when children are going home.
Amisfield School principal Bex Kilgour says the school has been working in partnership with the NZ Transport Agency and South Waikato District Council to improve safety by making the school and its students more visible to motorists.
Along with the variable speed signs, a section of SH1 where people cross has been highlighted with red surfacing, reflective markers and fencing. Footpaths have been widened to make it easier for people to cross the road, and a number of trees and shrubs have been trimmed or removed to make the school more noticeable to passing motorists.
“The speed of traffic travelling past the school has been a concern to the school, parents and the local community for a while as many children who walk to school have to cross SH1,” Mrs Kilgour says.
“All of the physical work has been aimed at letting motorists know the school is here and that they need to slow down to help us keep our students safe.
“By joining forces and working together the school, Transport Agency and council have created a lasting change for our community,” she says
Transport Agency investigations have shown that for many rural New Zealand schools the main traffic safety issue is the risk of crashes with vehicles turning into or out of the school grounds to drop-off or pick-up children.
The Transport Agency’s Principal Safety Engineer, Michelle Te Wharau, says it is important that everyone shares responsibility for keeping vulnerable youngsters safe.
“People, including children, make mistakes on the road and crashes happen. By reducing speed limits at specified times before and after school, we’re aiming to reduce the risk of these crashes and keep the students and all other road users safe,” she says.
“It’s up to all of us to share responsibility and play our part in making the transport system as safe as possible.
“Driving at lower speeds around schools when kids are coming and going is part of that.”
South Waikato District Council's Road Safety Co-ordinator Robert Cathie is pleased with the progress made on safety improvements in the area.
"To complement the tremendous work the Transport Agency have done on SH1, council has widened the footpath outside the school and altered the footpaths and crossings over Browning Street to make it easier and safer for the children to cross," says Mr Cathie.
"In addition we have relocated some of the signage warning motorists of the close proximity of a school and removed bush and trees to make the school more visible."
Mr Cathie believes that these measures in conjunction with the work carried out by the Transport Agency will make a huge difference to the safety of the school children.
Council believes strongly in the benefits of different agencies, in this case the school, the Transport Agency and council, collaborating to solve an issue, he says.
The variable speed signs will be operational from April 23 and police will be monitoring compliance of speed through the area.
The Transport Agency’s efforts to manage speeds outside schools are part of its commitment to the Government’s road safety strategy Safer Journeys.
Safer Journeys adopts the world leading ‘Safe System’ approach to reducing unnecessary deaths and serious injuries from road crashes.
The Safe System approach aims to create an environment that is forgiving of human error so that people do not needlessly die or get seriously injured as the result of a simple mistake, such as misjudging the speed of an oncoming vehicle. It focuses on safer speeds, safer roads and roadsides, safer road use, and safer vehicles.
More information on this and other initiatives can be found on the Safer Journeys website