Friday, December 1, 2023

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Slower rural life won’t help anyone

Avatar photo
The Transport Agency has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

It failed to regulate the transport sector, had an extra $45 million for regulation, read over-regulation, we can expect the costs of warrants and certificates of fitness to rise and the structure of the agency means internal audits could be fudged.

My view of the agency is simple.

It is useless, excessively bureaucratic and out of touch.

On road safety, however, the situation isn’t as much a tragedy as farce.

Over the years we’ve had many road safety initiatives foisted on us. The licence age was lifted, the blood-alcohol level was reduced, we’ve been inundated with expensive, albeit irrelevant, advertising campaigns and the road toll keeps going up.

Now they’re grasping the straw of speed, much of it on rural roads.

We had a heady statement from the agency that only 5% of open roads should have a 100kmh limit.

The crystal ball must have been working overtime.

I don’t believe they have the faintest clue.

That was followed by some outfit called the International Transport Forum telling us the speed limit should be restricted to 70kmh on rural roads and 30kmh in urban areas.

Its report found speed is a key factor in crash severity.

The locals in the Tinui pub could have told you that in seconds and for no expense.

The one logical statement on rural speed came from Fed’s head Katie Milne who told us reducing speed limits is a step in the wrong direction. I agree.

Then the Wellington brains trust suggested we need a lot more speed cameras and greater fines, a move I’d suggest is more in the interest of generating revenue than reducing the road toll.

Apparently, they believe that worked in Sweden.

Comparisons with Sweden aren’t realistic as they have twice our population, seven times more state highways and 10 to 20 times more expressways than we do.

Having said that, I’m pleased the Government is spending more money on roads but that’s just a start. Let’s use the fuel tax and road user charges for what was originally intended – the investment in safe roads.

The concentration on speed tends to become myopic.

Last Christmas we had Police Minister Stuart Nash warning motorists not to exceed the speed limit.

Judging by the number of fatalities, that warning did little good.

The University of West Australia found stricter enforcement of speed limits reduces drivers peripheral vision and increases stress levels, making driving more difficult.

So, based on Australian research, which I’m sure applies equally here, strict enforcement means our roads are more dangerous.

My point is we have a situation where the agency doesn’t have a clue and is grasping at straws over speed, specifically on rural roads.

That was followed by what, in my view, was a classic case of stupidity from the chief science adviser for the Transport Ministry, one Professor Simon Kingham. He told us reducing speed has benefits beyond safety such as incentivising people to walk and use their communities better, which can improve health.

What is he suggesting; that I walk the 50km to Masterton and visit the library for the sake of my health.

The speed exercise is a waste of time.

For a start, if you set the speed limit at 60kmh who is going to obey it? Who is going to police it?

The more you drive on shingle roads the better you get and having some pious bureaucrat telling the rural sector what’s safe and what isn’t is ridiculous.

I’m sure the Wellington bureaucrat would be dangerous driving at 60kmh on a shingle road. Rural people aren’t.

Likewise, reducing speed to 80kmh on sealed rural roads is stupid and think of the animal welfare issues on long hauls.

Twenty three years ago when we moved here there was little traffic on the road to Masterton.

Now it’s unusual to make that drive without encountering four or more log trucks and at least two honey vehicles. That’s on top of the road being busier.

The problem is it is the same road. There have been no upgrades despite the increased traffic. 

Further, a speed limit is a waste of time on rural roads where you drive to the road and conditions.

Going from here to Masterton there are a few places I can go 100kmh if I’m not behind a truck and a few where 80kmh is excessive.

The speed limit on rural roads is irrelevant and I haven’t seen an accident or a traffic cop.

So, my sincere advice to the agency is to do something that is relevant. Improve rural roads and if you’re getting hit with a touch of creativity try macrame instead of playing with the speed limit..

People are also reading