OVERVIEW

What does the Safer Speeds Programme cover?

The Safer Speeds Programme (Safer Speeds) is New Zealand’s new approach to speed management under the Safer Journeys strategy.

One of the Safer Journeys goals is to reduce the number of speed related crashes by 2020. While the road toll is significantly lower today than it was in 2010, there are still too many people dying or being seriously injured on our roads.

In 2015, speeding was a contributing factor in 93 fatal crashes, 410 serious injury crashes and 1286 minor injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 101 deaths, 496 serious injuries, and 1,831 minor injuries.

Safer Speeds recognises that the transport environment is changing, with better infrastructure and technology available to manage speed to improve safety outcomes and promote network efficiency. Safer Speeds provides a long-term approach to manage speed on the road network to support both safety and economic productivity.

Further information about the Safer Journeys strategy can be found on the Safer Journeys website(external link).

What is the package of initiatives currently being progressed under the Safer Speed Programme?

The package comprises:

  • release of the Speed Management Guide by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), to modernise the approach to speed management on New Zealand roads.
  • subject to public consultation, amendments to the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits (2003):
    • to replace the existing speed setting guidance (Speed Limits New Zealand) with the Speed Management Guide
    • to enable the setting of a 110 km/h speed limit on roads that are safe and appropriate to do so
    • to allow for a more flexible outcomes-based approach for speed limit signs (repeater).

What will this package achieve?

The package identifies opportunities to:

  • modernise the approach to speed management on New Zealand roads
  • increase national consistency in setting and managing speed limits
  • improve opportunities for community engagement on identifying and prioritising safe speeds
  • target speed management efforts where there is greatest potential to reduce deaths and serious injuries, and improve economic productivity 
  • enable the setting of a 110 km/h speed limit on roads where it is safe and appropriate to do so.

SPEED MANAGEMENT GUIDE

What is the Speed Management Guide?

The Speed Management Guide (the Guide) is a document(external link) that helps modernise the approach to managing speed in New Zealand. The Guide supports a consistent approach to speed that is appropriate for road function, design, safety, use and the surrounding environment (land use).

The Guide will help Road Controlling Authorities (RCAs) to identify and prioritise the parts of their networks where better speed management will contribute most to reducing deaths and serious injuries, while supporting overall economic productivity.

It will also assist RCAs to have better conversations and engagement with their communities, to better understand priorities and perspectives on local roads, and improve understanding of speed management activities.

The NZTA published a working draft of the Guide in August 2015. The Guide is currently being demonstrated in the Waikato region.

What tools are included in the Guide to support the setting of speed limits?

To help ensure future speed management efforts are better targeted to risk and applied consistently across the country, regional maps are produced by the NZTA for RCAs that identify the top 5-10 percent ‘high benefit’ speed management opportunities.

These maps will highlight the appropriate intervention based on the road’s function, which may be a mix of safety improvements that support current or higher travel speeds and possible changes to the limits, up or down. These maps provide a starting point for RCAs to engage with their communities.

The Guide will promote a tailored approach to engagement, supported by a variety of engagement tools. RCAs can use and adapt these tools to suit their engagement needs.

The type and extent of any engagement will depend on the area of road being assessed. For example, the size and scale of an engagement process for a main arterial road is likely to be more extensive than the process used for assessing a smaller, local road.

Are wholesale speed limit changes expected under the Guide?

There is no expectation that there will be wholesale changes to speed limits in the short-term. The Guide will assist RCAs to manage speed at their own pace, and at a pace that works in their districts and for their communities. Before the process begins for any speed limit change, we envisage that an RCA will consider a number of factors relating to its respective road transport priorities including costs, and safety or administrative impacts a potential speed limit change may have.

For many roads, no change to travel speeds – or speed limits – will be needed. It is for those corridors where current travel speeds or speed limits may be too low to too high that changes should be made.

What’s happening in the Waikato region?

The Waikato Regional Transport Committee (the Committee) established a project team to test-drive the Guide, recognising opportunities to utilise the Guide to support the Regional Road Safety Strategy goals to reduce road deaths and serious injuries significantly.

The project team selected eight sites throughout the region comprising a range of road types including rural, urban, tourist route, and school zone, to demonstrate the Guide. The project team applied tools in the Guide to understand the root cause of the issues, understanding what options might be available to address those issues, including community engagement.

Early findings from the Project have been included in the Guide, along with two demonstration site cases studies at Te Awamutu and Hobbiton. Later findings from the Project will be included in subsequent versions of the online Guide. In tandem, NZTA has undertaken engineering works on sections of State Highway to retain a 100 km/h speed limit to maintain the efficiency of the section.

PROPOSED RULE AMENDMENTS

What are the changes proposed to the speed limit rules?

The proposed changes as part of the Amendment rule to the Setting of Speed Limits Rule 2003 are:

  • to replace the existing speed setting guidance (Speed Limits New Zealand) with the Speed Management Guide.
  • to enable the setting of a 110 km/h speed limit on roads that are safe and appropriate to do so
  • to allow for a more flexible outcomes-based approach for speed limit signs (repeater).

Will I get a chance to provide feedback on these proposals?

Yes, consultation on the proposed changes is planned for early 2017 and run for 6 weeks. Information about this consultation will be available in early 2017 on the NZTA website(external link).

What does the Setting of Speed Limits Rule (the Rule) cover?

The Rule sets out the requirements and processes for setting a speed limit. It creates a default speed limit of 100 km/h for rural or open roads and 50 km/h for urban roads. The Rule incorporates Speed Limits New Zealand (SLNZ) as the procedure for calculating speed limits. The Rule also has very prescriptive signage requirements for notifying road users where the open road speed limit is not the default. To find out more about the Setting of Speed Limits Rule 2003 go to: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/rules/setting-speed-limits-2003/.

Why are you proposing to replace SLNZ with the Speed Management Guide?

SLNZ has been in place since 2003. It reflects speed-setting methodology developed in the 1960s and narrowly focuses on speed limits. In addition, SLNZ is no longer fit for purpose, evidenced by the significant use of the exception clause 3.2(5) in the Rule for speed limits, which differ from the speed identified by the SLNZ calculation.

The Speed Management Guide modernises the approach to speed management. It will better support:

  • a Safe System approach, and a consistent network-wide approach to managing speed.
  • RCAs to optimise their network where better speed management could contribute to reducing deaths and serious injuries while supporting overall economic productivity.

There are a number of advantages associated with the Guide:

  • high benefit maps derived from the Guide are based on nationally-consistent data sets of travel speeds, road risk and road classification
  • evidence-based maps and new engagement tools enable RCAs to have more informed and proactive engagement with their communities and road users
  • high benefit maps derived from the Guide encourage speed management at a measured pace that builds community understanding and support along the way. There is no encouragement for wholesale change to speed limits.

What is the current open road speed limit?

The maximum speed limit on the open road in New Zealand is 100 km/h. However, some vehicle types such as heavy motor vehicles (vehicles with a gross mass of over 3500 kg) or light vehicles towing trailers have a lower maximum speed limit (both examples have a maximum speed limit of 90 km/h).

Will the new default speed limit be 110 km/h?

No, 110 km/h speed limits can only be set on roads where it is safe and appropriate. The road must be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to the necessary standards to safely support these speeds. There are a set of criteria that must be met before a road can be eligible for a 110 km/h speed limit.

What is the process for setting a 110 km/h speed limit?

The NZTA will be responsible for approving potential 110 km/h roads. Approval will be considered for roads that have been shown to be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to the necessary standards to safely support 110 km/h travel speeds. The Road Controlling Authority will still be required to follow the consultation requirements for changing a speed limit, as detailed in the Setting of Speed Limits Rule 2003, before setting the new speed limit through its normal bylaw process.

What are the roads that could currently meet the 110 km/h speed limit criteria?

Some of the most heavily used sections of the national road network meet the criteria for a 110 km/h speed limit. Currently, 155 km of road, subject to minor treatments, are suitable for 110 km/h speed limits.

These sections are the:

  • Auckland Motorway network:
    • Tunnel to Lonely Track section of the Northern Motorway (SH1)
    • Upper Harbour Motorway (SH18)
    • Takanini to Bombay section of the Southern Motorway (SH1).
  • Waikato Expressway (SH1):
    • Cambridge, Rangiriri, Ohinewai, Ngaruawahia and Te Rapa sections
    • Longswamp section of the Waikato Expressway — when completed in 2018
    • Huntly and Hamilton sections of the Waikato Expressway — when completed by 2019.
  • Tauranga Eastern Link (SH2).

Will the speed limit for all of the roads listed above be increased to 110 km/h?

If following consultation the Minister of Transport agrees to amend the Rule to permit 110km/h, then a Bylaw approval process to make the speed limit changes and some physical safety treatment works would occur in late 2017. The NZTA would progressively introduce 110 km/h roads, with the Tauranga Eastern Link and the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway being early deliverables.

Are there any other likely roads that could have 110 km/h speed limits in the medium term?

The NZTA is currently reviewing all the remaining lengths of 4 lane motorway/expressway across the road network (approximately a further 222 km out of a possible 425 km) to identify lengths that could be investigated further and what work, if any, would be required for them to be 110 km/h roads.

Other sections of road likely to be eligible for 110km/h in the future include:

  • Kapiti Expressway, SH1
  • Transmission Gully Motorway, SH1
  • Northern section of Christchurch Motorway, SH1.

Further sections of the road network would be added over time to grow the 110 km/h network.

What are the current requirements for repeat speed limit signs and what are its limitations?

The Rule has very prescriptive signage requirements for notifying road users of the speed limit — particularly on rural roads. They require a speed limit sign not only at every point where a speed limit changes, but also regular reminder or repeater signs at 2-3 km spacing where the speed limit is not 100 km/h.

Current signs are not always cost-effective, especially where travel speeds might be lower than the default speed limit due to geographic constraints, and the reason for a lower speed limit is self-explaining to drivers and riders.

What proposed changes are there to the current requirements?

The Amendment rule will enable Road Controlling Authorities to find more appropriate or different lower cost solutions by having a broader range of options than speed limit signs for open road non-default speed limits. We envisage that this approach will be used only in circumstances where travel speeds might be lower than the default speed limit due to geographic constraints, and the reason for a lower speed limit is self-explaining to drivers and riders.

What are some examples of options other than signage that RCAs could use?

The Amendment rule will enable an RCA to use options other than signage when posting non-default speed limits. Some examples of these alternatives are:

  • Optimal placement of speed limit signs
  • Marking the speed limit on the road
  • Speed Threshold Treatments – these are a combination of a speed limit sign, place name sign and other road markings, side islands or plantings
  • Transverse Road Markings – which are visual countermeasures and consist of road markings placed at an angle to the edge and centrelines which lead to vibration or noise within a vehicle
  • Low tech methods of speed limit indication such as enhanced road markings.

Is this a ‘one size fits all’ approach for each RCA?

Road Controlling Authorities will determine what options are most safe and effective for the circumstance. RCAs would continue to be responsible for monitoring actual operating speeds to ensure the speed limits comply with the requirements of the Setting of Speed Limits Rule 2003.