Lowering the speed limits on State Highway 2 north of Tauranga will only make things more dangerous on a road already struggling to cope with demand, say those fighting for greater change.
The NZ Transport Agency is seeking feedback to its proposal to slow the speed of SH2 traffic between Katikati and Tauranga. Earlier this year, the stretch of highway was identified as the nation's second most dangerous road, with 1.4 fatalities per kilometre since 2000.
Te Puna resident Sean Lett said slowing things down would not make a difference.
"We've got speed limits there already and people don't stick to them. People pass in stupid places."
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The highway needed four-laning to cope with the region's ballooning population, said Lett, who is a member of the Fix the Bloody Road campaign.
The stretch of SH2 north of Tauranga transitions from 60km/h through Te Puna, 90km/h west of Te Puna, and eventually to 100km/h west of Ōmokoroa. The transport agency proposes to lower some of these limits by as much as 20km/h.
Lett said people had already become so impatient with traffic they were driving dangerously, especially in the area where he lives which is in the 90km/h speed zone.
"I sit on 90km/h. People speed past doing 110km/h. [Lower] Speed limits won't do anything.
"You can put laws and rules in but they are for law-abiding people and law-abiding people will obey them. People that don't give a toss won't."
Bay of Plenty businesswoman Tina Jennen said slowing things down would not make a big difference on its own.
Jennen was nearly killed when a car crashed into her head-on on SH2 in 2017. The oncoming driver had fallen asleep and crossed the centre line. All four of Jennen's limbs were broken in the crash. While she has forgiven the other driver, she said more could be done to make the road safer.
"If we design around the potential for human error, which we cannot mitigate, we actually keep people safer," she said.
After a series of public protests last year, including a hikoi in October that blocked the highway at the Wairoa Bridge, the transport agency announced $101 million of safety improvements between Waihī and Ōmokoroa.
Acting director of regional relationships Ross I'Anson said between 2009 and 2018 on this section of SH2, 27 people were killed and 77 were injured.
"No matter what causes a crash, speed is always a factor in the severity. Put simply, the speed of impact can be the difference between walking away or being carried away from a crash.
"This is especially true when pedestrians or cyclists are involved. Speed also reduces the opportunity to react to a mistake, yours or someone else's – the faster you are travelling, the less time you have."
The transport agency found the current 100km/h and 90km/h speeds were not safe or appropriate for the stretch of SH2. Lower permanent speed limits are needed to reduce the number of crashes and resulting deaths and serious injuries, I'Anson said.
"If everyone is travelling at a similar speed, that improves travel flow and reduces frustration."
Lowering the speed limit was something that could be done now while other potential safety improvements were investigated, I'Anson said.
Western Bay district councillor and former Joint Road Safety Committee chairwoman and Margaret Murray-Benge said the proposed Ōmokoroa interchange and the Tauranga Northern Link required more focus than current speed limits.
Feedback will be considered by the transport agency before a decision is made.
NZTA proposed speed limit changes
- Lower the open road speed limit between Katikati and Bethlehem from the current mix of 100km/h and /90km/h to 80km/h
- Lower the Pahoia School variable speed zone from 70km/h to 60km/h
- Lower the speed limit through the Te Puna township from 80km/h to 60km/h
- Extend the 50km/h speed limit at Bethlehem to be 135m west of Te Puna Station Rd.
Have your say
People can make a submission on the proposed changes by:
- Downloading and completing the electronic feedback form from www.nzta.govt.nz/bop-speed-review
- Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Picking up a submission form from a Western Bay of Plenty council office or library or call 0800 44 44 49 and NZTA will send you one.
- Feedback closes 5pm on November 18.