Who would have thought a ten percent increase in the speed limit on a tiny proportion of New Zealand roads would cause such a spirited debate?
Political opponents are searching desperately for negatives. Labour’s police spokesman Stuart Nash says he fears the change will mean Kiwis drive faster on all roads, not just the ones with a higher speed limit.
In my opinion, the addition of another number to our speed limit signs will encourage drivers to pay more attention to how fast they’re going - and that will mean we are paying more attention full stop.
I’ve also heard people express fears drivers will end up reaching speeds of up to 125km/h whilst overtaking under the new conditions.
But the 110km/h speed limit is only being introduced on a handful of multi-lane motorways, so overtaking isn’t an issue; there is no pressure to complete the move.
I’m no physics expert, but at 110km/h, the highest impact speed you could have on a motorway with a median barrier is 110km/h.
Compare that to a regular 70km/h stretch of road without any median barriers: a head-on or off-set collision would occur at 140km/h. Now there’s a whole lot of frankly confounding mathematics involved, but the basic fact is that you’d be a lot worse off.
Many of the road safety ideas used in New Zealand are copied from Victoria, Australia. They already have 110 km/h zones on some freeways there (as do New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia).
Admittedly some of the ideas we’ve borrowed from our trans-Tasman neighbours haven’t worked, like the now-abolished right-of-way for vehicles turning right. Victoria’s authorities realised that was a bad idea and ditched it decades before we did.
But most of these measures make our roads safer.
We’d do well to follow Australia’s lead and enforce the ‘keep left unless overtaking’ rule on our motorways too.
The reality on our roads is that it is stupidity, inattention and ignorance kills. Yes, when we mess up, speed doesn’t help. But 110km/h on a Motorway will probably be the safest driving you’ll do.