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Palmerston North Councillors Follow the Pack

Palmerston North Councillors Follow the Pack

Lucinda Rees, NZ School Speeds

Speed limits outside schools are coming down all over the developed world, led by the World Health Organisation. It states the maximum vehicle speed a child is likely to survive in a collision is 30km/h. Yet Palmerston North councillors are weakly deferring to NZTA regulations and after hours of discussion are likely to go with a 40km/h 'variable' speed which only applies during school hours.

In most European countries the speed limit within school zones are 30km/h. In the US speed limits are in place when children are present and if you come across a school bus unloading or loading children, drivers have to stop and wait until the last child has safely been removed from danger. In New South Wales all schools have a 40km/h speed limit and there is talk that the limit will soon be dropped to 30km/h.

It seems that there are no recommended safe speeds outside schools in this country. There are speed limits all the way up to an unbelievable 100km/h, but you would struggle to find the recommended speed of 30km/h posted outside a school. In Palmerston North, some of the councillors championed by Chris Teo-Sherrell have suggested the recommended 30km/h, but the NZTA doesn't allow speeds as low as this at variable times. The only way they would be allowed to put the recommended speed limit in place is by posting 30km/h permanently outside schools - that is day and night. Initially the council voted 8 to 5 in favour of 30km/h speed limits, but since then have changed their minds and voted 8 to 6 in favour of the variable 40km/h speed.

Councillor Chris Teo-Sherrell realises that rural schools often miss out on safe speeds and states: "At the most recent meeting we agreed to include the 4 rural schools on roads for which we are the road controlling authority. Currently there is nothing we can do for the other 2 on State Highways controlled by NZTA other than advocate. I hope that if the 4 schools get 40/70 speed limit combinations that will increase pressure on NZTA to bring the others into line." This councillor is acutely aware that 30km/h is the new "safe", but it seems his hands are tied. Sadly many seem stuck the 40km/h being safe. They need to move with the times and slow speeds a notch further to actually fall into the "safe" bracket.

It is the complexity of introducing speed limits outside schools, plus this following anomaly in the law that makes our rules a farce and just plain dangerous: drivers are expected to slow to 20km/h when passing a school bus that is loading or unloading passengers. Very few drivers adhere to this rule and why would they, when they drive at excess speeds past schools. But as soon as a school bus is spotted they should skid down to 20km/h?! It just doesn't make sense.

These lengthy discussions in Palmerston North and probably other councils proves that the Ministry of Transport needs to tackle this and introduce a consistent speed limit of 30km/h outside all schools, with a maximum of 70km/h at all other times outside rural schools. Our children are worth as much as all the other children of the world. They are no tougher and just as unpredictable. They want to become independent and make their own way to and from school. Parents, grand parents, siblings, aunties and uncles of school children - all drivers on our roads don't want to kill a child, just because those who are responsible can't adopt a simple consistent solution of 30km/h outside all schools during busy times.

Drivers need consistent speed limits, so that the message finally gets out there: slow down near children - their bodies can't cope with an impact of more than 30km/h.



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