Reducing speed is one of the most effective ways to bring down the rate of deaths and serious injuries on Tauranga roads.
A common misconception is that with lower speeds comes much slower trips. In fact, the impact on journey times is marginal or even non-existent; with factors like traffic lights and intersections having a greater effect.
When crashes occur it’s not just drivers and passengers being harmed but other more vulnerable road users too like people walking and people on bikes.
Sadly, since 2016 there has been 27 deaths and 1,345 injuries on Tauranga Roads. In that time nine pedestrians have lost their lives and three people on bikes have been killed.
Tauranga is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing cities and with an ever-increasing number of road users the enduring notion of 50km/h for urban roads and 100km/h for rural roads is no longer fit for purpose.
Those speed limits don’t consider the unique characteristics of each road where a bad decision, distraction or poor weather can lead to tragic consequences.
Even the best drivers make mistakes, and New Zealand's roads can be challenging. Good speed management gives drivers the cues they need to judge the safe and appropriate speed for the road they're on.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Road to Zero sets an initial target to reduce deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand’s roads, streets, cycleways and footpaths by 40 percent over the next 10 years.
Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter from Tauranga Police says that vehicle speed determines not just the likelihood of a crash but the degree of damage too.
“The severity of injuries in a crash is directly related to the impact speed of the vehicle, whether or not speeding was a factor”.
Even a 1km/h change in speed can make a difference in whether someone survives a crash. In a collision with a car the probability of a person walking, or cycling being killed or seriously injured increases rapidly with relatively small increases in speed.
At 50km/h there is an 80% chance of death in a collision between a car and a vulnerable road user. When the speed is reduced to from 50km/h to 30km/h there is a 90% chance that they will survive.
Senior Sergeant Hunter says it is important to remember that speed limits are just that – limits, not targets.
“Many drivers aren’t aware that they can be travelling at the speed limit and still be driving unsafely. The speed limit is the maximum legal speed that you can travel at on the road in perfect conditions. However, road conditions are rarely perfect. As a safe driver, you’ll have to look out for changes in traffic, road and weather conditions, and reduce speed accordingly”.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency research found that for local trips where the maximum speed was reduced from 50km/h to 40km/h, travel times increased by only about 11–42 seconds.
It really begs the question, what’s the rush?
Even if there is 30 seconds to be gained the benefit is overshadowed by the potential harm and the enormous social and emotional impact of crashes. As well as the deaths and injuries on Tauranga roads the social cost is estimated at a staggering $445 million dollars over the last five years.
Amending speed limits can make a big difference in preventing deaths and serious injuries and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency are currently identifying and reviewing roads where communities are calling for change.