Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is committed to Vision Zero, a vision for New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads.
As part of the work to get to Vision Zero, we are identifying roads where safer speed limits will save lives, and where communities are calling for change.
That's why we are proposing new lower speed limits on State Highway 51 (SH51), between Waipatu in Hastings and Marine Parade in Napier, and the winding section of State Highway 5 (SH5), from Rangitaiki to Esk Valley.
Between 2010 to 2019, there were 250 injury crashes on SH5 Napier to Taupo, leaving 16 people dead and 75 seriously injured.
Keeping people alive on our roads is, unashamedly, our number one priority.
Road to Zero 2020-30 aligns with the safe system approach, which acknowledges that humans are fallible and even responsible people make mistakes on our roads, but they shouldn't have to die or be seriously injured as a result.
It comes with an initial target to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads by 40 per cent over the next 10 years
It is an ongoing challenge that all of us can help solve. But a major shift is needed, on many fronts, from speed to driver education to road maintenance and improvements to safer vehicles.
It's not a matter of choosing one solution over another. We need to take action in all these areas.
Even when speed isn't the direct cause of a crash, it is a factor in the severity of every crash. It is most often what determines whether a person is killed, seriously injured, or walks away from a crash.
New Zealand's roads vary hugely, in geography, traffic volumes and the types of vehicles that use them. Speed limits need to reflect the specific risk of each road.
The stretch of SH5 between Rangitaiki and Esk Valley is hilly and narrow, with sweeping bends and no physical separation of traffic travelling in opposite directions. It's simply not safe for this stretch of road to have the same speed limit as Auckland's Southern Motorway or the Hawke's Bay Expressway.
Because SH5 is a winding and hilly road, there is already a significant difference between the posted speed limit and the speed that most people actually travel.
Our technical assessment of the road found that although the posted speed limit on SH5 between Rangitaiki and Esk Valley is 100km/h, the mean speed that people travel at is 81km/h. This means lowering the speed to 80km/h will increase the average travel time by less than a minute.
It represents a very small impact on journey times, but will make a big difference to safety. It will clearly signal to all drivers that this section of road is more challenging to drive.
Others have suggested that if we invested more in improving the road, or if people were better drivers, we wouldn't need to propose lower speed limits.
Again, it's not a matter of choosing one over the other.
$2.5 million has been secured for safety improvements on SH5 which will be implemented over the next four months, including side barriers, road markings and rumble lines.
This is on top of a $16m maintenance programme for Hawke's Bay state highways.
We also agree that driver education plays an important role. That's why we have also been working with police on the Stay Alive on 5 campaign, which aims to raise awareness of fatigue, and encourages driving to the conditions and at safer speeds.
Having a safer and more appropriate speed limit will also help police to focus their enforcement efforts on drivers who are creating the greatest risks for themselves and other road users.
Lowering speeds doesn't mean we can't make other changes, but it is one of the most effective things we can do now to keep people alive and safe on these roads.
We want to hear what people who use SH5 and SH51 regularly think about the new speed limits we are proposing. Visit https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/hawkes-bay-speed-review/ to find out more and have your say before 11pm on Sunday, May 9.
Emma Speight is Waka Kotahi director of regional relationships