Road safety campaigners call for speed limit reductions as holiday toll rises

With four days left in the summer break period, road safety campaigners are concerned we're heading for a record-breaking season. 

It comes after two people were killed in a crash in the west Auckland suburb of Massey, just after 4am, and another was killed in the Northland settlement of Brynderwyn. It brings the Christmas holiday death toll to 12. 

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash. 

But Caroline Perry from road safety charity Brake NZ said it's clear that attitudes to driving need to change.

"There are things that we need to do - all of us - in terms of taking responsibility for our behaviour on the roads," Perry told Newshub. 

The Government's Road to Zero strategy aims to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries by 40 percent by 2030. That would mean bringing down the annual road toll to no more than 227. 

It's an ambitious target, because this year more than 370 people have died on our roads.

"Reducing the road toll involves a multitude of measures, but speed is certainly one of them," said WSP technical director Dr Fergus Tate.

He researched the impact of reduced speed limits on three stretches of highway in the North Island. The findings were published in an August report prepared for NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi. 

"Typically, we found for the three case studies that we looked at - and they varied - the reduction in the rate of deaths and serious injuries was about 30 percent," Dr Tate told Newshub. 

Waka Kotahi has a plan to reduce speed limits on 400 kilometres of highway.

"The reason why speed is such an important factor in road safety is that it's not necessarily the cause of a crash, but it will be a factor in the outcome of a crash," said Perry. 

But ACT leader David Seymour said cutting speed limits is not the answer.

"I understand the theory, I understand it can work in some places, but overall in New Zealand, scaring people with ads, handing out fines, lowering the speed limits - for 10 years we've done that hard and the deaths and serious injuries keep going up," he told Newshub. 

Dr Tate acknowledged speed isn't the only issue.

"We need to look at the behaviours around drinking and driving, distraction - those types of things... so, it's not just one thing that is the answer."

Waka Kotahi said in 2023 New Zealanders will see the installation of more side and median barriers, more police enforcement targeting high-risk driving, speed limit changes, and more walking and cycling infrastructure.