Speed limits on one of the Western Bay of Plenty's deadliest and busiest highways could be reduced under a plan experts say could prevent one death a year.
The NZ Transport Agency has proposed dropping limits to between 50 and 80km/h on State Highway 2 between Katikati and Tauranga.
Reaction to the proposal, detailed in a presentation to the Western Bay of Plenty District Council yesterday , has been mixed: as a safety improvement it was welcomed but some were not sure it would make much of a difference.
Under the proposal, the speed limit reductions would be made in four areas:
- 100km/h to 80km/h from 100m south of Marshall Rd, Katikati, to 180m east of Loop Rd, Te Puna - down from 100km/h
- 80km/h to 60km/h from 180m east of Loop Rd to 360m east of Te Puna Rd
- 90km/h to 80km/h from Te Puna Rd to 135m west of Te Puna Station Rd
- 80km/h to 50km/h from Te Puna Station Rd to 370m east of Bethlehem Rd.
A Pahoia School zone would also be established in the area south of SH2 near the school - 140m north of Pahoia Rd to 310m south-east of Esdaile Rd.
A variable speed limit sign will show a speed limit of 60km/h when active. The speed will be 80km/h when it is not.
The proposed slower speed limits come in the wake of calls from the Western Bay community for safer measures on the deadly stretch of highway.
In September a large group of residents blocked SH2 at the Wairoa Bridge to ask the Government to "fix the road".
Earlier that month, a man was killed in a fiery crash near Pahoia Rd. The month prior, another man died in a Whakamarama crash.
Yesterday , transport agency senior safety engineer Adam Francis said statisticians estimated the changes could prevent at least one death or serious crash a year, on average.
When questioned by councillors about what impact the slower speeds could have in terms of upsetting time-poor drivers, Francis said he was not an expert on how frustrated people drove.
Other councillors expressed their own frustration when Francis and his colleagues were unable to say when the proposed trial might take effect.
Councillor David Marshall said: "I think we support anything that supports a reduction of deaths on the roads but this will be a hard sell if you have no details."
Public consultation of the proposed changes was expected to take place next month.
Fix the Bloody Road campaigner Andrew Hollis said he felt any gains made from the slower speeds, such as potential prevention of one death a year, would be swallowed up by the continued increase in population and subsequent crashes.
"We are happy something is being done, the speed limit probably should shift to some extent, but we don't think it will reduce accidents on the road. Some of the smaller accidents might have better outcomes but the bigger accidents will still be bigger accidents," he said.
"It feels like they are doing something to be seen to be doing something rather than a real solution."
Hollis said he would prefer the focus shift on to speeding up the process of building the Tauranga Northern Link.
He also questioned when the proposed speed limits would likely take effect.
An Ōmokoroa resident, who would not be named, said traffic was so congested in his daily commute that he barely made it up to the speed limit anyway.
"I can't do 90km/h now. But if it means this road is safer and are less deaths then it's fine. I think, reducing the speed, yes."
Another commuter, who would not be named, said she had no problem with the proposal but questioned if people would adhere to the limits.
"The road isn't really the problem, it's the drivers."