Expert says moves to increase speeds will kill, seriously injure more Kiwis as Government drives in opposite direction

The official holiday road toll begins on Friday and it's hoped last summer's 21 deaths will not be repeated.  

And, at a road safety seminar held by Auckland Transport on Thursday, experts made it clear reducing speed limits is key to safer roads.  

But the Government is driving in the opposite direction.  

At the seminar held by Auckland Transport (AT) on Thursday, Global Road Safety Partnership chief executive David Cliff was at pains to point out that evidence points to lower speeds reducing road deaths.  

"Struck at 30 kilometres an hour, you've got about a 95 percent chance of surviving - it won't kill you. If you're struck at 50 kilometres an hour, [there's] about 55 percent chance you'll die," Cliff said.  

It's a message he emphasised as motorists begin the summer holiday migration.  

The World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Road Safety published this week puts the annual number of road deaths around the globe at 1.19 million, that's roughly the population of Auckland dying on roads each year.  

"We have lowered speed limits on a number of roads in line with international evidence and seeing really, really great results," AT safety specialist Ping Sim.   

But the new Government is committed to stopping blanket speed limit reductions.  

"The Government's really committed to improving road safety but we're not going to be imposing blanket speed limit reductions which simply slow New Zealanders down," Transport Minister Simeon Brown said.  

In practice, that means some speed limits will increase.  

"Any calls to increase speed limits directly mean they're asking for more people to be killed and seriously injured in road crashes," Cliff said.  

Brown said the Government's focus to reduce road crashes this summer is enforcement - catching drink-drivers.  

"The biggest cause of deaths on our roads in recent years has been drugs and alcohol, that's what we've got to tackle." 

Meanwhile, the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi's operation centre in the capital will be operating 24/7 over summer. 

"It's been a big year and a lot of our contractors want to stand down and rest but, certainly, we have people on call and as soon as there's an incident they're ready to respond," the agency's Mark Owen said.