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Open Letter To Steven Joyce

Open Letter To Steven Joyce

16th August 2011

Hon Steven Joyce

Dear Steven Joyce,

I have read your recent release on the Road Safety Strategy to 2020 and once again you are not addressing the plight of children, especially school children on our roads. This day and age we should all be encouraging our children to take more exercise and travel on foot or by cycle, yet for most school children their journey to school is being ferried by some sort of motorised transport, as the other “healthy” option of walking and cycling is too dangerous. Children and teenagers should have exposure to our roads. How else will they opportunity to learn about the danger on the road? At the moment when they hit driving age, they are suddenly exposed to the dangers of the road, whilst in the relative safety their car. Having not lived in the shoes of the vulnerable road users, those biking and walking, they will not have actually experienced their dangers. The youngsters are being handed a potentially lethal weapon with their cars, but with little knowledge of how it effects all on the road. No wonder you have such terrible statistics of accidents from young drivers.

If you introduce a law, with a National Speed Limit of 40km/h or less outside schools, you will be putting out a message to drivers that your Government cares about children on our roads. When drivers are faced with a situation where a child is on the road they will at least know which speed is relatively safe. At the moment you clearly have given them no thought at all. My local primary school in Swannanoa still has a 100km/h speed limit. You blame this on our local council, but with the roading rules being what they are, the councils’ hands are tied. They could reduce the speed a little, but not enough to benefit a child on the road. This is just plain irresponsible towards all our school children and you need to change the rules or simply introduce a National School Speed Limit. You recently launched the United Nations’ Decade of Action on Road Safety, so will be aware that the United Nations recommend a speed limit of 30km/h maximum outside schools and play areas. Other countries that had originally reduced the speed limit to 40km/h outside schools are now looking at this option. Our roads are perfectly capable of dealing with this and our drivers will soon adapt too.

Outside my local school though in Swannanoa, signs have been fitted that indicate that children are coming or going from school, not that there is any signage encouraging a safe speed. Many drivers slow down. These drivers are obviously keen for the speed limit to be lowered outside schools, yet there are the select few who don’t care and chose to pass through the school zone at 100km/h plus, whether children are nearby or not. Many parents including myself have seen plenty of near misses near the school, but as yet no child has been killed. These incidents are unlikely to be reported and unless an accident happens they will never become statistic. Should we have to wait for a child to be killed before there is an outcry and you finally address this issue? Or are you keen to continue having speeds in excess of 40km/h, a speed that has been proven to give a young child only an 80% chance of survival if they are hit? I surely don’t need to describe to you what would happen if a child was hit at 100km/h!

Selwyn District Council, just the other side of the Waimakariri River to where I live, is currently trialling the advisory signs that encourage drivers to slow to 40km/h within most of their school zones, even those in rural areas on roads with open road speed limits. I have been told that these large green advisory signs of will be backed up by the Police and with speed measuring devices, as well as extra road markings. If drivers get caught speeding, when children are present they will be charged with careless driving. Some of the signs will be outside schools on 100km/h roads, but what is most significant is that the onus is on the driver to drive responsibly at a speed indicated, when children are present. It’s nice to think that children will be protected on roads outside schools, but currently only in Selwyn. You could simply adopt this nationally, but I suppose that would be too simple. As it stands, the trial is very unlikely to work on such a small scale and with so little publicity? Similar signage to this in school zones has proved very successful in the USA, so a trial is really unnecessary.

By not doing anything you appear to approve of the 100km/h speed limit outside many rural schools. You also talk of reducing the road toll, yet other countries, where school speed limits are in place, there is talk of having a zero road toll. As Minister of Transport you have the power to bring in a law to protect children on our roads. It will cost the country very little, and considering the social cost of accidents, it will actually save the country money and will change the way we drive on our roads. Change behaviour on our roads at an early age and soon, you too will be striving for a zero road toll.

Yours sincerely,

Lucinda

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