AA calls for Government to continue dropping speed limits around New Zealand despite backlash from National

The Automobile Association (AA) says it's important the Government follows through with dropping speed limits across New Zealand despite backlash from National. 

It comes after political commentator Barry Soper claimed on AM last week that he knows on "good authority" the Government will ditch the move despite Transport Minister Michael Wood defending the proposal.

While changing speed limits wasn't up to the Government, Wood told AM last week Labour had set it as an area of focus for Waka Kotahi.

AA Road Safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen told AM on Wednesday reducing speed limits, along with other changes will save lives.

"We do know from past experience, past evidence that improving the roads, adding things like medium barriers in particular make a really significant crash reduction," Thomsen told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"We know that speed reductions can also in places make a significant safety improvement. We know that getting people into more modern vehicles and safer vehicles can have a big impact. We know that drink driving enforcement can have a big impact."

As part of the Government's Road to Zero campaign Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) proposed speed limit changes to more than 500km of state highways in 440 locations across New Zealand.

Thomsen said so far 6-7 percent of New Zealand's roads have seen speed reductions and by 2030, an estimated 33 percent of our roads will have reduced speed limits. 

He added early data suggest the roads that have speed reductions have seen a drop in crashes.   

"The problem is with some of those changes, they have happened relatively recently so we don't have enough time and data to have really robust statistical evidence, but the early data would show a lot of those roads there has been a reduction in crashes," Thomsen said. 

"That's pretty consistent internationally where generally when you see lower speed limits introduced, you do see improvements in safety. But at the same time, we only have to look at last year to see that the number of road deaths across the country was about the same as it was back in 2019. 

"We haven't been making as much progress as we'd like, so we need to be looking at doing a lot of other things, along with reducing speed limits in places." 

AA Road Safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.
AA Road Safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen. Photo credit: AM

The Government has confirmed its speed limit reduction proposal will still be considered despite policy reprioritisation. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told AM later on Wednesday roads deemed too fast should still be changed promptly.

"This has been a long-term programme of work - not just under this Government," Hipkins said. "Speed limits on roads are regularly reviewed."

Hipkins said speed limit reviews were designed to accommodate safety concerns.

"We want fewer people being injured or fewer people dying on our roads. There are some roads where, if you drive at the speed limit, you can only do that if you're driving dangerously."

But National wants the Government to pump the brakes on plans to lower speed limits around the country. 

Christopher Luxon told AM on Wednesday NZTA has plans for blanket speed reductions on large chunks of state highways and he doesn't support it.

"We don't support just a blanket reduction of speed limits. We think there are some good things around drop off and pick-ups at schools, we can have variable speed limits that's all good stuff," Luxon said. 

"But when I look at state highways, our challenges are we're not spending enough to maintain or develop our roads. We're not making enough effort around enforcement, and the police by their own admission haven't been able to do that job over the last few years and we need to continue to work on driver education." 

Watch the full interview with Dylan Thomsen above.