Why are you changing the speeds on SH30 between Tikitere and Whakatāne?

The current posted speed limits are not safe and appropriate for this corridor due to the potential for head-on crashes. While installing median barriers is an option for reducing the risk of head-on crashes, this road has not been designed in a way which would enable this to happen easily and without considerable investment.

Why review speed limits?

We’re reviewing speed limits to make sure they are safe and appropriate for the road. No matter what causes a crash, speed is always a factor in the severity. Put simply, the speed of impact can be the difference between walking away or being carried away from a crash. This is especially true when pedestrians or cyclists are involved. Speed also reduces the opportunity to react to a mistake, yours or someone else’s – the faster you are travelling, the less time you have. New Zealand’s population has increased over the past 10 years. That means more people using our roads more of the time and inevitably, more crashes.

Why don’t you invest more money in getting roads up to a higher standard, so speed limits don’t need to be changed?

Our road network is long and covers some challenging terrain. It has a lot of intersections, and crashes are spread widely across the country. This means that making sure speeds are safe on some sections of our roads is the quickest and most effective way we can prevent deaths and serious injuries. The safer speed programme is just one part of the Waka Kotahi Safe Network Programme. The Programme is delivering proven safety interventions on our highest risk intersections and roads across New Zealand. Aligned to New Zealand’s Road Safety Strategy, Road to Zero 2020–2030, the Safe Network Programme aims to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads by focusing on safe roads and roadsides, safe and appropriate speeds, and safe level crossings.

Working with our road safety and local government partners, the Safe Network Programme is designed in line with international best practice and New Zealand experience to ensure that we are targeting to the risks that have been analysed across the road network. The programme invests in key safety interventions like safety barriers, roundabouts, rumble strips, widening of shoulders and centre lines, and signage right across the road network, both state highways and local roads.

Speed and infrastructure Programme

Isn’t it just bad drivers who are the problem?

Everyone makes mistakes, but simple mistakes should not cost lives. To make New Zealand’s roads safer, we are working to improve every part of the system safer. This means safe drivers, safe roads, safe vehicles, and safe and appropriate speeds.

Won’t changing speed limits make it take longer to get anywhere?

Our research shows that changing speed limits has a negligible effect on journey times. For trips where the maximum speed was reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h on a 10km length of road, journey times increased by only about 30–48 seconds. For local trips where the maximum speed was reduced from 50km/h to 40km/h, travel times increased by only about 11–42 seconds. To put this in context we know that even a 1km/h difference in speed can make a difference in whether someone survives a crash.

What does a speed review involve?

  • A technical assessment of the road is completed to establish the previous crash history, the average speed vehicles are travelling on the road, number of vehicles a day using the road, what is happening around the road in terms of housing, urban development, businesses, and other activity on the road. This helps to determine what a safe and appropriate speed for the road should be – and if it is out of step with current speed limits.
  • Engagement is conducted with affected communities, councils, road user representative groups and other stakeholders, to get feedback and local knowledge on how people are using the road, concerns and things to be aware of to potentially address in the review. This helps us to decide if lowering the speed limit is the best thing to do, where new speed limits might begin/end and if any other safety improvements (better signs, for example) might be needed.
  • Formal consultation with affected communities, councils, road user representative groups and other stakeholders is then conducted. Changing a speed limit is a legal process so this step is when we show people a detailed proposed speed limit and the exact start and end points for it on the road and ask for any other additional information that might have an impact on the final decision.
  • The technical data is reviewed as well as the information received from the consultation process. Once decisions are made, this goes through a gazetting process, the public is informed and the new signs and road markings are installed.

What do you mean by a ‘safe and appropriate’ speed?

A speed limit that is both safe, and appropriate for the road function, design, and use. Many of New Zealand’s roads have seen a lot of changes to how they are used over the years, so it’s no surprise that the speed limits may not be safe for how we use the road now.

Mythbusting speed

Why change the speed when it is slow drivers who cause crashes, because they cause others to overtake?

Travelling too fast for the conditions contributed to the cause of about a third of all fatal crashes. On the other hand, slow driving is not significantly implicated as a cause in our poor crash statistics. The posted speed limit is a maximum not a target. Drivers are expected to adjust their travelling speeds depending on the weather conditions and road environment and show patience.