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No Road to Zero for School Children

23 January 2020

Children will soon be heading back to school. Last year the Ministry of Transport announced ‘Road to Zero’1 suggesting this will make roads safer for children to walk and bike. Lucinda Rees from NZ School Speeds, lobbying for safe speed limits outside every school, says a lot more than proposed needs to be done and would like to see the Government take more accountability. They need to urgently prioritise children in road safety in New Zealand.

At the end of last year the Ministry of Transport (MOT) announced that within the next 10 years road controlling authorities (RCA’s) need to introduce speed limits outside schools. In urban areas with 30km/h or ‘40km/h when appropriate(?)’. Rural schools are once again left on the sideline, as they only need 60km/h speed at peak times, at other times it can still be 100km/h. A MOT cabinet paper, ‘Tackling Unsafe Speeds’2 released at the end of last year, suggested “proposed immediate actions”. It seems that slowing speed limits outside schools with a ten year guideline is not urgent. NZ School Speed members have suggested that speed limits are put in place by the end of 2020.

On the whole, RCA’s are individual councils. “Councils will remain responsible for safe speed limits outside schools. Past evidence would suggest that this doesn’t work. If child road safety was a priority then school zones speed limits should be set by the Government,” Ms Rees says. “Here in Christchurch the city council have done a lot of road safety work, but travel outside Christchurch to neighbouring councils and little has improved. However in Christchurch, the recommended 30km/h speed limits in school zones appear not to be a priority and when I suggested consistent 30km/h school zones in the past, the answer was a resounding no.”

Evidence would suggest that active children do better in school3. What better way to have daily exercise by just walking or cycling to school. Bringing 30km/h speed limits outside all schools in line with the 20km/h school bus rule, would make drivers aware of slowing when children are at their most distracted. In addition to improve safety for cyclists and other vulnerable road users we need a mandatory passing gap of 1 metre for vehicles travelling at up to 60km/h and 1.5 metres for those travelling at higher speeds.

Suggesting a ‘40km/h outside schools when appropriate’ is just plain irresponsible. The likelihood of a child being killed when hit by a vehicle moving at 30km/h is 10%. With every 1km/h increase the probability of death increases by 4 or 5%. At 40km/h the likelihood of death doubles.

NZ School Speeds would like to see consistent 30km/h speed limits outside schools to be introduced throughout the country - urban and rural - at peak times. No school, including rural ones should have speed limits of more than 60km/h outside peak times, as children use school facilities at all times. If the Government continue to drag their heels, then individuals need to put pressure on every council as a priority before the end of 2020. ENDS

1 ROAD TO ZERO:https://transport.cwp.govt.nz/assets/Import/Uploads/Our-Work/Documents/Road-to-Zero-strategy_final.pdf

2 TACKLING UNSAFE SPEEDS CABINET PAPER: https://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Import/Uploads/Land/Documents/Cabinet-paper-Tackling-Unsafe-Speeds-programme_Redacted.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2NkpeJAMLHjV-2_GEU0yMyUqqTptkZqiL9l-ECa1cu1QUn1EQoGlHmqVY

3 Childhood Inactivity: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50466061?fbclid=IwAR1ldborJZaBoPQuqU7KzqbwFbrOw9j4G8lvLQfd5DCCbab7feijynjj3jo

ends

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