Arild Faeraas, a journalist from Norway, was travelling around the North Island last March and April with his girlfriend, Ingrid Lundvall. As the holiday road toll rises, he shares his experience - and shock - at the allowed speeds on some of our roads.

For a country that has similarities to my country Norway, a developed country with fiords and similar population and country size, one thing surprised me: the New Zealand road rules.

In Norway (and in the other Scandinavian countries) you are only allowed to drive 100km/h on highways with separate lanes (on the best ones you can even drive 110km/h in Norway, 120km/h in Sweden and 130km/h in Denmark).

But in New Zealand you can only drive 100 km/h on the best highways, for example, the highway through Auckland and southwards. But you can also drive 100 km/h on two-laned highways that are winding and quite narrow, which makes no sense to me.

Advertisement
Faeraas couldn't believe the speed limit was still 100km/h on winding roads. Photo / Supplied
Faeraas couldn't believe the speed limit was still 100km/h on winding roads. Photo / Supplied

Many times when I was driving around the beautiful North Island, I did not dare to drive faster than 80km/h, which would be the typical speed limit on a similar road in Norway or Denmark.

But the locals, and other tourists it seemed, put the pedal to the medal anytime they had the chance.

When I compare this experience with the numbers of road deaths in New Zealand I believe that the high speed limits on many roads have something to do with it. When I read about this year's horrific number of fatal accidents during Christmas, I almost could not believe it - 12 dead in six days.

Both in 2015 and 2016 there have been more than 300 road facilities in New Zealand. In Norway, a country which has half a million more inhabitants than NZ, the average the past five years have been around 150 people who yearly died in road accidents.

As in New Zealand, we Norwegians drive a lot. The same pattern is showing in Denmark where the past five years the average road toll has been under 200. Denmark has 5.7 million people; a million more than New Zealand.

And Sweden with a population of 10 million, will most likely have fewer than 300 road deaths in 2016, even though the population is more than twice New Zealand's.

Of course, other factors as quality of roads, driving behaviour and high speeding fines could affect the number. If you are caught driving 36 km/h over the limit in Norway you have to pay a fine of $1600.

But I am in no doubt that if you are driving a narrow and winding road at 100 km/h instead of 80 km/h there is a much bigger chance that something tragic will occur. You New Zealanders don't deserve to have twice the chance of getting killed when you sit in a car, as I do in Norway.

My advice from the other side of the world is therefore: Set the speed limit according to the road standard, and drive safely everywhere you go.