All kids ought to be safer

By Ross Pringle

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Experience tells us they work, so you have to wonder why it is that variable speed zones aren't in place at all rural schools.

Westmere School is among the latest in the country to benefit from having the device installed and joins fellow rural school Kai Iwi as the only two within the Wanganui region with a reduced sped zone in the mornings and after school.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is running a trial of the variable speed limits at seven rural schools with that to be extended by a further 16 by the end of this year. The NZTA is collecting data from various sites and will gauge the zones' effectiveness over two years.

It is an escalation of safety measures designed to alert drivers to potential risks around schools that has seen standard signs, variable 40km/h limits and active warning signs.

As thousands of children begin a new school year today, and many embark on their first day of schooling in a new environment, it is pertinent to look at the issue of road safety near schools. Are we doing enough to protect our youngest citizens? Are there sufficient warning signs and reminders to people of where the schools are?

The risk factors are high enough in the urban zones with speed limits of 50km/h but in rural areas where traffic whizzes past at 100km/h there is no margin for error. The remedy of variable speed limits, which enforce a reduction to 70km/h in the morning and immediately after the school day, has proven effective.

Since signs were installed at Kai Iwi on State Highway 3, principal Alastair White has reported a change in driver behaviour at these crucial times. The signs work. And they are relatively inexpensive, at $25,000 for Westmere's three, most of which is covered by the NZTA.

The dangers involved in children getting to and from school are well known, with youngsters' limited peripheral vision, difficulty in assessing speed and distance putting the onus on drivers to take the initiative.

When it comes to safety, and with such a successful mechanism at our disposal, it's nice to see the Government taking a proactive stance, but this is something that needs to be in place at all schools.

Feedback: editor@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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