Council says no to lower speed limit

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 23/12/2013
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

ROAD DANGERS: Appleby School principal Graham Avery and his senior students watch as vehicles travel past the school, which has a 100kmh speed limit past its entrance.

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It's only a matter of time before a child is injured or killed on the 100kmh stretch of road outside Appleby School's gates, says principal Graham Avery.

Avery and the school's board have petitioned the Tasman District Council to reduce the speed limit on the Moutere Highway where it runs past the school, but council transportation manager Gary Clark says that would not slow drivers.

The council recently painted yellow lines outside the school to prevent parents from dropping off or picking up their children on the side of the road, which reduces visibility for other motorists.

While Avery said that was a step in the right direction, vehicle speed remained his main concern.

"We have had a few near-misses, as parents nudge their vehicles out into the road without adequate visibility," he said.

"Travelling at 100kmh, you don't have any time to react at all."

He said the Moutere Highway was a thoroughfare for industrial vehicles, which were heavier and wider and more dangerous than most cars on suburban or city roads.

"We don't want to have to wait until someone gets hurt, but it's not a problem we can solve on our own," Avery said.

 Clark said painting the yellow lines had been a practical solution to improve visibility and reduce hazards on the roadside. Changing the speed limit would not change driver behaviour, he said.

While the speed limit was 100kmh, that was "not a target" and council tests had shown that most drivers didn't travel past the school any faster than 70-80kmh, Clark said.

That was because Appleby School was close to Pea Viner Corner, and drivers would either be slowing down for, or speeding up from, the Moutere Highway's intersection with State Highway 60.

Clark said changing the speed limit would just frustrate the many people who regularly drove on the highway.

"If we put an 80kmh zone in, it has to be 2 kilometres long, which doesn't make a lot of sense for a 200-metre stretch of road," he said.

Clark said he could understand Avery's concern, however he did not believe a reduced speed limit would reduce the risk to students.

There was still a 90 per cent chance of fatality if a child was hit by a car that was travelling at 50kmh.

To absolutely ensure pedestrians' safety, the limit would have to be dropped to 30kmh.

It was the school's prerogative to provide off street parking, and parents needed to take responsibility for their children's safety before and after school, he said.

"The problem that's generated has been generated by the school, but the school is asking the council to solve the problem," Clark said.

"The school should be able to control the problem it creates."

That said, "the council is well aware of the problem and continues to look at ways to address those issues that have been raised," he said.

Avery said he had been discussing the issue with the council for at least the five years he had been principal at Appleby School, and while he was pleased the yellow lines had been introduced, he was still terrified about the risk to his students' lives if the speed limit was not lowered.

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"It's a no-brainer," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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