Call for 110kmh limit on motorways

Motorists are calling for a major rethink of speed limits - including raising the top limit to 110kmh on the safest motorways.

The Automobile Association, which represents 1.3 million drivers, says a move to 110kmh should become a priority after this year's election.

It also wants limits reduced on highways that are not equipped to handle 100kmh traffic, such as the steep and winding Rimutaka Hill Road.

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said too many "inconsistencies" had crept into New Zealand's speed zones, which was confusing well-intentioned drivers and seeing them get caught for speeding.

The association wanted fair, consistent and predictable speed limits across the board.

If some motorways had been designed for 110kmh traffic, then the limit should reflect that, he said.

But it should apply only to flat, straight stretches of motorway with two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space. "It won't be an enormous amount of roads," Noon said.

"But in free-running form, those roads are running near 110kmh anyway, in the faster lane, so you're not actually creating a safety risk.

"If we know we are going to have some reduced speed limits around the country, then we should also be increasing speeds where we can do that. It seems like a fair deal."

Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch all had motorways that were candidates for a 110kmh limit, he said.

Many of the roads being built as part of the Government's $2.5 billion Roads of National Significance would also be able to handle it, and the change would put those motorways on a par with roads of similar quality in Sweden, Britain and Australia.

But adding an extra 10kmh would not be an excuse for drivers to creep up to 120kmh, he said. A lower tolerance could apply to 110kmh roads as a way of keeping speeding drivers in check, alongside speed cameras.

National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths would not be drawn on whether speed limits should go up or down, but said they needed to reflect the risk and functions of a particular road.

Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse said moving to 110kmh would require a law change and was not being closely considered, "at this stage".

But he agreed changes were needed to other speed limits to improve safety and travel times.

He would not give a specific time frame, but said it would be addressed by 2020.

Noon said there were several examples where the speed limit was too high for the design of the road and needed to be lowered.

At the root of the problem was a lack of national guidelines, which meant, in some cases, councils were not setting limits that reflected the look and feel of a road.

Motorists were being caught speeding unintentionally because they were driving to the design of the road rather than its limit.

Labour transport spokesman Phil Twyford said there was some merit in tinkering with speed limits under 100kmh. Raising the motorway limit to 110kmh was "less likely" to happen, but he would not rule it out.

Caroline Perry, director of road safety charity Brake New Zealand, supported reducing limits, particularly near schools on state highways.

But any push towards 110kmh on motorways would increase the risk to motorists, she said.

Featherston man Nick Burt, who drives the Rimutaka Hill Road about four times a week, favoured scaling back the speed limit there to 80kmh.

The only people who got close to 100kmh were motorcyclists, and while most were well behaved, some were "maniacs" who needed to be kept in check.

Burt also supported raising the speed limit to 110kmh on safe motorways. "If the roads are safe enough, then I think it's a good idea. A lot of people drive between 100kmh and 110kmh anyway."



Which motorways should be 110kmh?

The AA supports raising the limit to 110kmh only on flat, straight stretches of motorway with two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space.

Parts of Auckland's major motorways, the Northern Gateway toll road, the Waikato Expressway, Christchurch's Northern Motorway, and parts of State Highway 1 and SH2 north of Wellington are potential candidates.

High safety standards for the roads being built as part of the Roads of National Significance programme mean 110kmh could work on parts of Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway.

The Dominion Post