Tougher speed tolerance may stay put

Last updated 08:36 27/11/2013

Police Minister Anne Tolley checks out one of the 28 new orange patrol cars unveiled as part of a plan to make the vehicles more visible on NZ highways.

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Police may consider adopting a speed tolerance of 4kmh above the limit at all times if a summer campaign saves lives.

"It might well be something that's brought in permanently," Police Minister Anne Tolley said.

"We know speed is a significant factor in whether you get up and walk away from an accident or not."

From December 1 to January 31, police will allow a tolerance of only 4kmh above the official speed limit. The move will mark the first time the reduced speed tolerance is applied beyond an official holiday period.

During the two-month period last year, 57 people died on the roads.

Tolley said the reduced tolerance policy had already proved effective, for example during Easter last year, when there were no road deaths.

Drivers were "getting the hang" of a lower speeding tolerance, with many setting their cars' cruise controls accordingly, she said. Results from the campaign would be evaluated before any decision was made on introducing it permanently.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said road safety had come a long way since 1972 when 713 people were killed on the roads.

"There wasn't a cohesive approach to road safety enforcement, but things have certainly changed."

Last year the road toll was 288. "But it's not about numbers and figures, it's about the pain, anguish and suffering which goes on," Marshall said.

"I make no excuse for the threshold, we want people to get back home safely and enjoy summer."

A permanently lowered tolerance was a possibility, "but that's a discussion to have".

AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen said police needed to focus on high-risk areas, rather than on motorways or around passing lanes. "Enforcement should be as obvious as possible."

The AA would await the results of the two-month campaign before deciding whether to back a permanently lower threshold.

ACC chief executive Scott Pickering said the cost of injuries and deaths associated with road crashes was $340 million a year.

"This is unacceptable, and speed is a big factor."

The suggestion of a permanent lowering of the speed limit tolerance follows a police U-turn after a similar suggestion in 2012.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Operations Andy McGregor said in February that year police were not considering a "permanent reduced tolerance" a day after Acting Superintendent Rob Morgan told Fairfax Media that a permanent option was on the cards.

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- Fairfax Media

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