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Drivers need to choose the right speed for the road

Drivers continually assess the road and make decisions about how to drive.

Drivers use many cues to help them read the roads and assess the right speed for the road, the conditions and level of risk.

Conditions mean more than weather. They also include the shape of the road, time of day, traffic, other road users, and road-side hazards such as trees or power poles.

Drivers need to choose the right speed for the road. Our speed limits do not always reflect this risk, and sometimes they are not right. When crashes happen, there are many causes – people make mistakes, the road might be tricky, the weather might be bad. The vast majority of severe casualties are not from extreme high risk behaviours, but from generally law-abiding people making a simple error.

The Safe System approach recognises that people make mistakes and we need a roading system that puts safety at its centre. It is made up of four principles; safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, safe vehicles and safe road use.

Some facts*:

  • In 2016, speed was a contributing factor in 79 fatal crashes, 406 serious injury crashes and 1,234 minor injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 93 deaths, 512 serious injuries and 1,759 minor injuries.
  • From 2014 to 2016, speed was a factor in 30 percent of fatal crashes, 21 percent of serious injury crashes and 16 percent of minor injury crashes.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, speed was a contributing factor in 36 percent of urban fatal crashes and 28 percent of open road fatal crashes.
  • Driving 5km/h above the speed limit in a 60km/h zone has the same level of casualty risk as driving at the New Zealand drink-driving limit (blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 50 mg/100 ml).
  • A pedestrian hit at 30km/h has a 90 percent chance of surviving. A pedestrian hit at 50km/h has a 30 percent chance. The risks for vulnerable pedestrians, such as the elderly or children, are higher again.

*These facts are provided by the Ministry of Transport.