Fergus recently spoke in support of the Auckland proposal to lower speed limits on a sample of roads, making the point that the success of speed limit reductions depends on context.
The look and feel of the function and form of the road plays a significant part in communicating to drivers what is expected of them - drivers need to understand ‘why’ lower speeds are necessary, says Fergus.
“On long straight roads with little side friction, it will be more difficult to obtain a speed limit reduction by simply putting up lower speed limit signs, compared to lower speed limits around schools, where the ‘why’ is very clear to drivers,” Fergus explains.
“That said reductions in mean speed of two to four kilometres an hour will still result in significant road safety benefits.”
Fergus previously shared his views on the Auckland Transport programme of reviewing speed limits on its roads to implement safe and appropriate speeds.
In doing so he recognised that Auckland Transport has made good progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2018 Business Improvement Review.
“Auckland, and arguably New Zealand, should be grateful that Auckland Transport has recognised a problem exists, developed an action plan, worked to implement that plan, and are monitoring progress,” he says.
“The evidence-based approach Auckland Transport is taking is, in my opinion, essential for the systematic improvement of road safety outcomes in Auckland and further afield.”
Auckland Transport reduced speed limits on nearly 600 roads in 2020 but unfortunately, road deaths and serious injuries are projected to be higher this year than the previous year. One reason for this, says Fergus, could be that during lockdowns data suggests that on some roads mean speeds and instances of higher speed increased.
“This supports the need for a package approach to speed management involving more education around speed limits and better enforcement to realise the desired drop in mean speed,” Fergus says.
It should be noted that with 34 deaths in 2020, this is the lowest figure in the past 30 years and in part is related to lockdown. So, while the projection for 2021 will see an increase on this figure it will still be a significant reduction compare to historic levels. Although it is early days, deaths and serious injuries have not risen, and in many cases have fallen on those roads where the speed limit has been lowered.
“I fully support the Auckland Transport programme of reviewing speed limits on its roads to implement safe and appropriate speeds. I believe that with the support of education and enforcement, as well as limited engineering measures, these will be achieved. As speed has the biggest impact on crash severity, road safety benefits will result from the speed limit review,” says Fergus.
More from Fergus:
Try then modify approach to traffic change
If it's not tourists, who is accountable for the NZ road toll?
Road Safety Week Insights: Can a lower road toll be the new normal?
Dr Fergus Tate is Technical Director - Transport. He is widely acknowledged to be a leading expert in road safety in New Zealand and has applied his expertise to some of the most innovative road safety projects in New Zealand. These include the introduction of the New Zealand Road Assessment Programmes KiwiRAP and road Infrastructure Risk Rating (IRR), as well as Rural Intersection Active Warning Systems (RIAWS) and out of context curves.