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Let Speed Limits Make Roads Safe for School Children

Let Speed Limits Make Roads Safe for School Children

A crescendo of voices are complaining about possible speed limit reductions, but Lucinda Rees from NZ School Speeds is in support, having spent many years calling for consistent 30km/h speed limits outside schools, as recommended by the World Health Organisation. She is wondering if lowering speed limits will bring more benefits than just lowering the road toll.

Lucinda Rees set up NZ School Speeds to campaign for consistent speed limits outside schools, while her children went to Swannanoa School in North Canterbury. The speed limit outside the school was 100km/h. “And it still is, but is now reduced at the start and finish of school to 60km/h,” says Ms Rees. “That is still too fast. We need 30km/h at peak time outside schools and no more than 60km/h at other times. Until now, no Government has considered children and other vulnerable road users. Sadly to date there is no one consistent school speed limit in place and no mandatory cyclist passing distances to keep children safe when sharing roads with traffic.

“We hear that mental health problems are increasing amongst children. This begs the question, if it is in part due to the fact that they are often dependent on cars to get about, where they can spend hours on their electronic devices. They are missing out on exploring the world around them. Interestingly in a report comparing ‘Child Well-being across the OECD’, mental health issues don’t seem as a big problem in countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, where children are encouraged to make their way to and from school independently. Speed limits and safe roads have not brought these countries to a halt and are known to be some of the happiest countries in the world.”

Roads should be safe for more than just drivers and this is what the Draft GPS (Draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport) is offering. Apart from lowering death rates on our roads, slower speed limits may also help all those who are suffering from diseases that are product of sedentary lives, by making roads inviting for all modes of transport. Furthermore children are getting fatter and not given opportunity to learn about making decisions and consequences and just be children exploring their environments safely. What better way to have opportunity to do this than on their journey to school.

The ‘Vision Zero’ changes proposed by the Government, have been successfully tried and tested in many countries, with Sweden leading the way. In Sweden road fatalities are only 2.6 deaths per 100,000 in comparison to New Zealand’s 7.9 deaths per 100,000 and they are aiming for zero fatalities on their roads. New Zealand has to follow their lead if roads are to become safer.

Ms Rees hopes the Government doesn’t back down and says: “The Draft GPS is inclusive of all road users, tackling New Zealand’s increasing road deaths. Let us hope that the Government have the guts to implement the changes needed and police it well. If New Zealander’s want safer roads, embrace radical change.”


ends

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