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Highway patrol credited with drop in road speeds

For immediate release 2001 speed surveys one of three

25 October 2001

Highway patrol credited with drop in open road speeds

Police and the Land Transport Safety Authority are pointing to the introduction of the specialist highway patrol as the reason behind a drop in open road speeds this year.

The latest national survey of open road speed, conducted by the LTSA at 65 sites around the country from June to August this year, showed an overall drop in average speed of 1.2 km/h from the 2000 survey - from 101.4 km/h to 100.2 km/h.

The first highway patrol cars hit the roads last December, with more units rolled out progressively throughout 2001. There are now more than 150 highway patrol cars on the road, with the full complement of 183 to be in place by the end of the year.

Police National Road Safety Manager Steve Fitzgerald said the patrols have been coming down hard on speeding drivers, issuing plenty of tickets and making their presence impossible to ignore.

"We've been very visible on the roads, and we've been working hard to convince people that speeding is irresponsible and it won't be tolerated. The results of this survey show that the message is getting through – drivers know that we're serious about speed."

Mr Fitzgerald said the survey's results were consistent with first-hand observations from highway patrol officers around the country that speeds are coming down.

In addition to the drop in average speed, this year's survey also showed that fewer people are driving at speeds far above the open road limit. In the 2000 survey 15% of drivers were found to be travelling faster than 111km/h. In this year's survey that figure had dropped to 10%.

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Director of Land Transport Safety David Wright said the survey's results were very encouraging, as reductions in average speeds have been proven to reduce crashes and save lives.

"International research shows that there is a strong relationship between average speed and crash rates. With all other factors remaining constant, a drop in open road speeds of 1.2 km/h in New Zealand should translate to a 5% reduction in open road fatalities."

But Mr Wright cautioned against making assumptions that the lower open road speeds recorded this winter would automatically lead to a lower annual road toll.

The latest survey also recorded speeds at 66 urban sites. While the downward trend for urban speeds which began in the mid-1990s has continued, there has not been as significant a drop from last year as recorded at the open road sites.

Mr Wright said it was a major concern that 15% of the vehicles surveyed at the 50 km/h sites were travelling over 61 km/h.

"People must realise that speed is an issue on urban streets too. We've had 42 pedestrians die on New Zealand roads already this year, most of them in urban areas. These are the most vulnerable road users, and 10 km/h can mean the difference between life and death when a vehicle meets an unprotected body."

Mr Wright said it was also important to remember that other factors are continuing to contribute to New Zealand's road toll.

"Drink-driving is still a major problem in this country and too many people are not wearing safety belts or restraining children properly. If people can stay sober, buckle up and keep their speeds down we're confident the road toll will keep coming down – but it won't happen on its own."

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Speed survey results - 1999 - 2001

Mean Speeds
Police District 1999 2000 2001
OPEN ROAD
Northland 99.1 98.2 96.3
Counties-Manukau 101.0 101.9 102.2
Waikato 100.9 100.1 99.0
Bay of Plenty 101.9 101.4 101.3
Eastern 102.7 102.4 100.9
Central 104.1 104.1 102.5
Wellington 99.1 97.9 98.7
Tasman 98.9 97.3 96.7
Canterbury 104.6 105.3 102.5
Southern 101.6 101.2 99.9
National 101.8 101.4 100.2

URBAN
Northland 55.1 54.2 54.5
North Shore-Waitakere 59.1 58.1 58.2
Auckland City 56.6 56.3 55.7
Counties-Manukau 58.4 58.3 57.9
Waikato 57.6 56.7 55.8
Bay of Plenty 57.3 57.5 57.6
Eastern 55.0 54.4 53.7
Central 55.2 53.5 53.9
Wellington 53.6 53.7 53.2
Tasman 53.4 53.2 52.1
Canterbury 54.0 54.2 54.8
Southern 55.4 54.5 55.1
National 55.8 55.3 55.2


For more information, please contact:

Andy Knackstedt Steve Fitzgerald

LTSA Media Manager Police National Road Safety Manager

04 494-8751 04 470 7334

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