Editorial: Slow down there, folks

Last updated 05:00 27/09/2012

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OPINION: It's a testament to the persistence, perhaps stroppiness, of Myross Bush parents that the Invercargill City Council is now trialling a lower speed limit outside their school.

It may yet prove more widely significant because if the trial proves successful the logic behind it would surely apply to many, if not all, other schools.

Traffic roars past Myross Bush in Mill Rd North at 100kmh - or that's the speed limit anyway - and quite apart from pedestrian issues this makes it particularly difficult for cars turning in and out of the school to do so safely.

When the parents' initial concerns were not embraced by officialdom they organised a petition signed by more than 2700 people. In a southern context, that's a lot. This reflected more than just strategic support for that particular school's case. There was plenty of encouragement for trying to secure a broader result affecting other schools.

Certainly there are others with particularly problematic traffic issues, notably Invercargill's Sacred Heart in North Rd where traffic is meant to have just slowed down from the open road limit to 50kmh, but in many cases does not.

Even though traffic lights have been installed there, the problem of motorist inertia outside that school has proven such that the lights have proven in some instances a false reassurance. The green crossing signal for pupils does not necessarily mean traffic will stop so parents have set up a roster system to keep an eye on children and motorists.

The Myross Bush experiment will be into the effectiveness of a 70kmh speed limit, though the school's parents remain ardent in their wish for a 40kmh limit outside all schools across Invercargill.

The New Zealand Transport Authority says territorial councils can change the speed limit outside these schools if they have evidence it is appropriate and safe. In that respect, the Myross parents are right to say that the Invercargill City Council has met them halfway.

It bears repeating that for safety's sake the goal is not to change the rules, but change dangerous behaviour and that it hardly matters to a 10-year-old if the car that hits her at 60kmh was ignoring a 50km limit or a 40kmh limit.

Motorists in Invercargill, in fact throughout the south, do in many ways have it sweet. They are not generally subject to road congestion and the delays that come with it. When they are in transit they expect to get there with minimal delays, if any. But none of that translates quite as emphatically as some seem to think into a God-given right not to have to decelerate from time to time.

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Southern schools, working with road safety programmes, typically do a good job of marshalling children to and from schools safely, particularly those schools that are on busy, sometimes high-speed roads. None of this shifts the onus on drivers to be scrupulous about heeding speed limits, pedestrian crossings and traffic lights.

In fact, it goes beyond that. So many young people might remember the rules for safe road crossing time and time again, but then one possibly tragic time will still dart recklessly into danger for no other reason than when you're young, sometimes if a place is worth going to it's worth stampeding to.

- The Southland Times

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