By Steve Mutton
Tragically, Northlanders are no strangers to the grief that follows when someone is killed on our roads.
Fourteen people have died on Northland roads already this year, two more than this time in 2020.
We don't accept that anyone should go out for a walk, drive or bike ride, and never come home.
Deaths and serious injuries on our roads should not be tolerated – they aren't inevitable. We shouldn't refer to the loss of human life on the roads as a 'toll' we are prepared to pay as the price of our ability to get around.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and police are urging all Kiwis to support safer speeds during Road Safety Week (May 17-23), and for our country to commit to a future where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads, with an initial target of a 40 per cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
This year New Zealand will mark Road Safety Week with a specific focus on the need for safer speeds.
Waka Kotahi is reviewing the speed limits on 11 state highways across Northland and north Auckland, and we're asking you to help make sure our speed limits reflect the risk of the road.
Proposals to lower speed limits aren't always popular but keeping people alive on our roads is, unashamedly, our number-one priority. Road Safety Week is a timely reminder that everyone deserves to feel safe when they travel.
Northland's roads are varied. Some are hilly and winding, with sweeping bends. Others are straighter but narrow and have nearby ditches, power poles or trees which, when hit at speed, often lead to serious injuries or deaths.
We've had requests from communities to lower speeds in some areas and we think it's time for a conversation about speed limits that protect people from being killed or seriously injured.
Even when speed doesn't cause the crash, it's the factor most likely to determine whether anyone is killed/injured, or walks away unharmed.
People have suggested that, if we invested more in improving roads, or if people were better drivers, we wouldn't need to review speeds.
It's not a matter of choosing one over the other.
We know appropriate speed limits are just one part of a safe road system.
That's why we deliver driver training and education programmes such as DRIVE and BikeReady, and it's why we are improving vehicle safety.
We're also investing in roading improvements including more median and side barriers, which allow for separation preventing high-severity injuries associated with run-off-road or head-on crashes, and over the past three years we've invested more than $100 million to maintain Northland's state highways.
Reviewing and lowering speeds doesn't mean we can't make other changes, but it's one of the most effective things we can do now to keep people safe on our roads.
Get involved and help us get it right.
Find out more and share your local insights at nzta.govt.nz/projects/northland-auckland-speed-reviews/ by June 14, 2021.
• Steve Mutton is Waka Kotahi director of regional relationships Northland / Auckland.