Editorial: Rural speed initiative overdue

By Andrew Austin

Have you ever driven past a rural school and found yourself slowing down even though the speed limit is still 100km/h.

You often feel it is better to be safe than sorry and rather be travelling slower than hit a child running onto the road.

It is for this reason that the government's decision to expand a road safety trial around rural schools is a good thing.

Pakipaki Bilingual School was one of seven rural schools around the country chosen to have variable speed limit signs installed as part of the trial last year. There are 653 rural schools in New Zealand which back onto roads with speed limits of 70km/h or more. The electronic signs allow schools to temporarily reduce the speed limits outside their gates during pick-up and drop-off times.

At Pakipaki school the signs slowed traffic from 100km/h to 50km/h between 8.30am and 9am, and again from 2.55pm to 3.30pm, a measure which has helped to ease congestion significantly.

Parents at the school loved the change and the announcement by Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges that the trial will be expanded to 16 more schools by the end of the year can only prevent more accidents.

The 40km/h school zones in place in urban areas like Auckland, which have been around for years, have proved to be a remarkable success. The move to curb speeds around rural schools is long overdue.

It does not matter how good a driver one is, the simple fact is that children are unpredictable and children rushing to catch a bus or running home are even more so.

The sooner these signs are rolled out to as many of those 653 rural schools as possible the better. However, there are also other measures that can also be put in place. AA principal advisor Mark Stockdale said one of the major ways of reducing accidents around schools was to eliminate the need for children to cross the road.

He said this could be achieved by creating bus bays that are off the road, moving the school gate off the main road, and providing enough car parking for parents on the same side of the road as the school.

Hopefully these are issues that individual schools can address in tandem with the variable speed limits. It is a priority because another child injured or killed in a school zone accident, is one too many.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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