Using safer limits outside schools
The New Zealand Transport Agency will begin a trial of variable speed limits outside rural schools next month as part of the agency’s on-going effort to reduce serious crashes and improve safety on rural New Zealand roads.
Agency chief adviser, Safety Directions Lisa Rossiter said the speed of traffic around schools is a concern to parents, teachers and others in many rural communities, as school drop-offs and pickups often took place in high-speed traffic environments.
‘‘Our aim is to create a road system in which crashes are survivable. To do that we really need to reduce speeds around our vulnerable youngsters and we also need to accept that people, including children, will make mistakes on the road,’’ Ms Rossiter said. ‘‘It’s up to all of us to share responsibility for making the system as safe as we can. Driving at lower speeds around schools when kids are coming and going is part of that.’’
Ms Rossiter said agency investigations have shown that for many rural New Zealand schools the main traffic safety issue is the risk of crashes with vehicles turning into or out of the school grounds to drop-off or pick-up children.
She said the trial is a natural extension of the ‘‘slow down round schools’’ programme introduced by police several years ago and will examine whether safer speeds can be achieved and a safer environment created during these times using a range of permanent and variable school speed limits.
‘‘By reducing speed limits at specified times before and after school, we’re aiming to reduce the risk of serious crashes involving turning traffic,’’ said Ms Rossiter.
‘‘It should also provide a safer road environment for pedestrians or cyclists using the road outside the schools.’’
Ms Rossiter said a similar approach had been employed successfully around many urban schools in New Zealand and the use of variable speed limits was increasingly common overseas.
The agency’s efforts to manage speeds outside schools are part of the agency’s commitment to the Government’s road safety strategy, Safer Journeys.
Safer Journeys adopts the world-leading ‘‘safe system’’ approach to reducing unnecessary deaths and serious injuries from road crashes.
The safe system approach aims to create an environment that is forgiving of human error so that people do not needlessly die or get seriously injured as the result of a simple mistake, such as misjudging the speed of an oncoming vehicle. It focuses on safer speeds, safer roads and roadsides, safer road use and safer vehicles.
Ms Rossiter said five schools would initially take part in the trial with the first step being the introduction of a permanent 80kph speed limit at four of the trial schools.
This will be followed up with the installation of ‘‘variable message’’ electronic signs at each of the five schools (similar to those being used outside schools in urban areas).
The signs, funded for the trial by the Road Safety Trust, will display the variable speed limit for each school during their key pick up and drop off times.