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Government Bullying Children into Cars

Government Bullying Children into Cars

"Getting to school safely should be one of the most basic human rights of our children, right? Not in New Zealand", according to Lucinda Rees from the lobby group NZ School Speeds. Today many children will be driven to school, but consider those who walk or cycle. They deal with many hazards on route, but when they have to cross the road to get to the school gate and are faced with distractions, dangers increase. Some even have to cross roads outside their schools with speed limits of 100km/h. Ms Rees is calling for the Ministry of Transport to introduce consistent low speed limits outside all schools of 30km/h at peak times and a mandatory cyclist passing gap.

"In New Zealand there are no consistent school zone speed limits. Internationally 30km/h is the maximum recommended speed limit outside schools, but not available in New Zealand even at peak school times. 40km/h is usually posted in urban areas, but the 10km/h difference could be a matter of life or death for a child. At 30km/h the probability of death after being struck by a car is 10%, rather than 30% at 40km/h. And to think that many rural schools have speed limits up to 100km/h.

"30km/h speed limits are often available to adults, being posted in many city centres and at roadworks. Then there is the school bus rule where passing drivers are meant to slow to 20km/h. Few do and this could perhaps be as drivers don't understand why they need to slow when one child is getting off the bus, but they aren't required to slow when hoards of distracted students leave school," says Rees. Laws that bring speed limit reductions in line with the school bus rule with consistent slow school zone speed limits when children are heading to or from school, will likely change a drivers perception.

Children are being encouraged to cycle or walk to school. If there are separated pathways all the way to school, they should be safe, but if they have to cycle on the road there are no laws to protect them. There is a suggested cyclist passing distance, but no mandatory rule. "With the lack of rules protecting vulnerable road users, encouraging cycling to school is like sending children out to slaughter. If they don't get hit on their bike, they could still get caught misjudging when to safely cross outside schools", says Rees. "Cyclists need a 1 metre passing gap when cars are travelling up to 60km/h and 1.5 metres at speeds above 100km/h."

New Zealand road toll proves that what the Ministry of Transport is doing is not working. Pressure is on them to adopt Vision Zero, which was introduced in Sweden in 1997 with the belief that loss of life is not an acceptable price to pay for mobility. According to the World Health Organisation Global status report on road safety 2015, road traffic fatalities in Sweden are estimated at 2.8% per 100 000 population in comparison to 6% for New Zealand. (http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/country_profiles/country_profiles/en/).

The Government is behaving like a bully towards our innocent children, by not providing those who walk or cycle to school with rules that protect them on our roads. Other countries seem to have the answers and now action is required here to start protecting our most vulnerable with affordable laws giving safe speed limits outside schools and safe cycling passage.


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