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Speed limit bylaw myths and misconceptions

Busting some myths on the proposed bylaw

Published: 6 March 2019

MYTH:  "AT is looking to reduce the speeds on over 700km of road to 30 km/h."

Some commentators are saying AT is planning to reduce speeds on over 700km of Auckland’s roads to 30km/h. This is wrong. Only 72km of roads, including the city centre, some town centres and some residential streets, are proposed to go from 50km/h to 30km/h. The rest, or 90 per cent of the roads in the proposal, are in rural areas like Rodney and Franklin. Generally these roads are proposed to go from 100km/h to 80km/h or 60km/h. 

MYTH: "The AA doesn’t agree with AT's approach"

The AA supports improving road safety – they care about the wellbeing of their members and everyone else using the road. They are also supportive of lowering speeds but do not share the same view as us that 30km/h is most appropriate in areas like the city centre. The AA agrees with the general concept of speed management but has different views on some of the detail. Based on international research, 40km/h is not slow enough to save lives. If a person is hit by a vehicle travelling at 40km/h, they have a 32 per cent chance of dying. At 30km/h, that risk lowers to 10 per cent. Our approach is to protect as many people as possible, including young children, older residents and those who are more vulnerable.

So, why not just reduce 50km/h to 40km/h?

Based on international research, 40km/h is not slow enough to save lives. If a person is hit by a vehicle travelling at 40km/h, they have a 32 per cent chance of dying. At 30km/h, that risk lowers to 10 per cent. As a modern society, are we really prepared write off that many additional lives and the quality of life for many others for the sake of a few additional seconds of travel time? Our proposed approach is to protect as many people as possible.

Speed doesn’t cause all deaths on the road – why just target that?

No matter the crash or the other factors, speed always plays a role in determining the outcome of a crash. We appreciate that sometimes drivers make mistakes. We want to create an environment where those mistakes do not result in someone dying. Lowering speeds is just one way for us to help create this safer environment.

MYTH: "AT is cherry-picking data to try and justify your proposed speed reductions."

AT is taking an evidence-based approach to reducing speeds. The data, which paints a tragic picture of our deteriorating road safety performance, comes from the New Zealand Transport Agency. We are using international best practice along with analysis of local crash data to decide which roads are included in our Speed Limit Bylaw.

We are using Austroads research from 2018 on survivability rates and taking a conservative approach to protect more people. The World Health Organisation recommends 30km/h speed limits in areas where vulnerable road users – those walking and cycling – are not protected. The United Nations Road Safety Collaboration recommends 30km/h for roads with high numbers of pedestrian movement in its 2008 Speed Management Manual.

MYTH: "Slower speeds will increase journey times significantly"

Safety on our roads is AT’s number one priority but it doesn’t mean that we expect there to be a significant reduction in journey times. In most cases we’re talking about a number of seconds increase in journey time per kilometre – a small price to pay to save a life. As part of changes in the city centre, we will be adjusting traffic light phasing to allow for ‘green waves’ at 30km/h, to give consistent journey times. A recent project at the Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Road intersection has made this notorious intersection safer for everyone.

Increasing safety might also improve journey times. Many of us have been on our roads when there has been a serious crash. Quite apart from the direct physical and emotional harm, these crashes result in traffic jams, lost productivity and lots of frustration for those caught in the aftermath.

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