Speed blitz 'making us better drivers'

By Cassandra Mason

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If the 62-day trial is successful the 10km/h speed tolerance could be permanently reduced.
If the 62-day trial is successful the 10km/h speed tolerance could be permanently reduced.

A summer crackdown on speeding has made Hawke's Bay drivers more considerate, a local road safety advocate says.

A recent Herald-DigiPoll survey showed fines issued for drivers travelling more than 4km/h above the legal limit this holiday season was strongly supported by the public.

Police have previously lowered the speed tolerance from 10km/h to 4km/h at long weekends and public holidays, but the lower threshold has been in force for all of December and runs until the end of January.

If the 62-day trial is successful, it could mark the end of the 10km/h speed tolerance.

Hawke's Bay Roadsafe spokeswoman Linda Anderson said local drivers were showing more consideration through the holiday period.

Lowering the speed tolerance permanently would help to maintain this.

"Increasing speed increases the consequences of a crash."

This was particularly important in Hawke's Bay, which had some "very challenging" highway networks, she said.

"Increased speed anywhere is a risk factor and the work we do with police in Hawke's Bay is around high-risk areas."

Driving to the conditions was just as important as sticking to the speed limit, she said.

Last year's national road toll of 254 deaths was the lowest in 63 years. There were 10 fatalities in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne in 2013, compared with 31 the previous year.

The poll showed that two-thirds of respondents felt the low tolerance policy was fair because it was about safety.

Just 29 per cent said it was unfair and about raising revenue.

Assistant commissioner for road policing Dave Cliff said he was pleased with the show of support for the initiative.

But police needed time to review the data once the trial was over before any decisions were made.

The Automobile Association has said that for the lower tolerance level to be successful it needed to be focused on trouble spots, not just motorways and passing lanes, and had to be combined with highly visible enforcement.

But police want drivers to slow down everywhere.

"The way we target it at the moment is we focus on areas of greatest risk. But one of the really important things to remember is about half of the fatal crashes happen in locations where there's never been one before," Mr Cliff said.

"We want people to slow down everywhere, not just in locations where they think they might get caught."

December was the first time the low tolerance was introduced for the whole month and, with 23 fatalities, it was also the lowest road toll for the period since 1965.

Meanwhile, last year saw a 38 per cent reduction in road deaths among 25 to 39-year-olds.

"The young are a group where we think we're having some real success," Mr Cliff said.

Police Minister Anne Tolley said support for the lower speed tolerance was encouraging and showed New Zealanders were taking the message to slow down seriously.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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