Skip to Main Content
Auckland Transport

Reducing speed limits Reducing speed limits

In 2017, 64 people died on our roads and an additional 749 were seriously injured. In each of these crashes, the speed at which the driver was travelling determined the seriousness of the injury. Auckland Transport is working hard to bring down this unacceptably high rate of death and serious injuries on our roads to zero.


Project status: Investigation
Project zone: Region-wide


Project overview

Auckland has a serious problem with people needlessly dying and being seriously injured on Auckland’s roads. In 2017 alone, 64 people died and an additional 749 were seriously injured on our roads.

Of those 64 killed, 44% (28) were speed related fatalities.

Out of the 28 speed related fatalities: 

  • 50% (14) were vehicle drivers.
  • 32% (9) vehicle passengers.
  • 4% (1) people on bikes.
  • 4% (1) people on foot.
  • 11% (3) motorcycle riders.

That amounts to more than a 70% increase since 2014 or over three times the rate of the rest of New Zealand. These are not just numbers but represent our people, our whānau and our communities, whose lives have forever changed and been devastated due to road trauma.

We are working closely with all our partners including the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and NZ Police to make our roads safe for everybody. We want to move towards a more “forgiving” road network, where a mistake made by a driver or road user does not lead to devastating consequences. We are also moving away from the “blame the driver/road user” attitude towards solutions where death and serious injury do not occur in the event of a crash. This is moving towards a Vision Zero approach.

Vision Zero, a Swedish ethics-based approach focuses on a core principle that “human life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within society.” It takes the zero harm workplace health and safety onto the road network where we spend a large part of our time in one of the riskiest everyday activities. It represents a paradigm shift away from the conventional “costs versus benefit” used to decide how much money to spend on our road network, towards valuing the benefit of decreasing risk. To achieve its long-term goal of Vision Zero, we are using the Safe System approach.

The Safe System

The Safe System approach aims for a more forgiving road network, one that takes human fallibility and vulnerability into account. Under the Safe System, all parts of the system are made safe. These include safe roads and roadsides, safe vehicles, safe road users and safe speeds. A more detailed explanation of the Safe System is available on The Safe System website

While we will work to improve all the four components of the Safe System, speed management (through safe and appropriate survivable speed limits) is the most effective way to reduce the high number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

Reason for slowing us down

Speed determines both the likelihood of a crash occurring and the severity of the outcome. Regardless of what causes a crash, whether people walk away or are carried away will depend on the speed their vehicles are travelling. Our crash stats show 80% of all death and serious injury occurs on 50km/h local urban roads and 45% of all local urban death and serious injury involve vulnerable road users (people walking, people on bikes, people on motorcycles, children, the elderly and the differently abled – people not in cars).

It is not just about keeping the driver and passengers of a car safe. While modern cars have improved safety features, if we crash into vulnerable road users at speeds higher than 30 km/h, the risk of them dying or being seriously injured increases greatly.

For individuals, the risks of a severe crash might seem small, but from a collective societal point of view, if every driver reduced their speed by 10km/h on urban roads, the safety gains are substantial across the whole road network.

Research on common driving journeys around New Zealand shows that the impact of lower more survivable speeds is marginal on overall journey time across the users entire journey.

Research Report 582 Time and fuel effects of different travel speeds - page 41, section 2.3 – Auckland short route study

We can’t outrun physics

We humans are fragile and vulnerable creatures. Our bodies can only withstand low impact forces – the equivalent of running on foot into a wall and falling. We are not designed to withstand the high impact forces involved in vehicle crashes.

Speed dictates what happens when the vehicles we drive crash into other cars and into other vulnerable road users. The probability of a person walking or cycling being seriously injured or killed increases rapidly with relatively small increases in speed.

Alternatively, a reduction in vehicle speed from 50km/h to 30km/h can reduce the likelihood of a person walking being killed or seriously injured from 80% down to 10%.

AT Death and Injury
Caption: If we get hit by a vehicle travelling at 30km/h we have an 90% change of surviving when compared to only a 20% chance of surviving if we’re hit at 50km/h.

A small increase in vehicle speed also has an immediate corresponding effect on the braking or stopping distance.

If we need to stop suddenly, we have to take into account this stopping distance i.e. the time it takes for us to react to the sudden change in the driving environment, the distance our vehicle will travel from the point when brakes are fully applied, to when our vehicle comes to a complete stop.

The current speed limits on most of our roads are not suitable for the existing conditions. Many of our rural roads are twisting and hilly with narrow unforgiving lanes that pose challenges to even the most experienced drivers. The consequences of small driver errors on such roads can be fatal.

AT Stopping-distance-web
Caption: Stopping distances based on an average driver in a car with good tyres and dry conditions


An overview of our speed management programme

AT is fast-tracking implementation of a speed management plan for Auckland and delivering an ambitious $700 million safety infrastructure acceleration programme estimated to reduce deaths and serious injuries by up to 18% over an initial three-year period and by up to 60% by 2028. It will deliver major, minor and mass-action safety engineering projects, including speed management at high-risk routes and locations across the network.

The safety programme is enabled by the Regional Fuel Tax (RFT), which contributes $210 million of the total $700 million capital expenditure.

Timeline:

  • We are making immediate progress with our accelerated safe speed programme due for implementation, December 2018 onwards.
  • Other projects include the implementation of the residential speed management programme for Te Atatu South and Papakura (Rosehill area) for the current financial year.
    • These improvements will slow vehicle speeds and involve the installation of speed calming measures like speed tables, humps and raised intersections.
    • Consultation on these two projects will open October-November 2018.
  • We are investigating and propose to deliver safety improvements on more than 600km of rural roads for safety treatments.
  • We are developing designs for 13 town centres, five of which will be implemented in the current financial year.
    • The five town centres are Orewa, Torbay, Mairangi Bay, St Heliers and Mission Bay.
  • We are developing plans to implement 30km/h speed limits across Auckland City Centre (the area bound by the motorway exits and the harbour edge).
    • This is an extension of the 30km/h speed zones already in place on Queen Street and Wynyard Quarter.
  • We are currently preparing a new speed limit bylaw, which is the legal process for changing speed limits as per Section 27.1 of the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017.
  • We have set new urban traffic boundaries, which have taken into account existing and future growth. These urban boundaries will have a default speed of 50km/h and any exceptions will be recorded within the Schedule of Exceptions. Change in land use, factoring in future growth, has been taken into consideration to make the process of changing speed limits easier.
  • A single stage speed management programme business case (being developed): It will set the strategic direction for the programme, highlight any risks and quantify the benefits.

Changes we are making 

TeAtatuSouthImprovements294x200.jpg

Te Atatu South road safety improvements

We are proposing road safety improvements on local residential streets in Te Atatu South.

Rosehill-Papakura294x200.jpg

Rosehill, Papakura road safety improvements

We are proposing road safety improvements on local residential streets in Rosehill, Papakura.

Myths and misconceptions about speed

The setting of speed limits on our roads can be an emotive issue but there is only one objective – and that is to make our roads safer for motorists and pedestrians.

Urban residential

  • Reduce speed limits to survivable levels recognising that many road users share the same space.
  • Provide a more people focused street where families feel safer.
  • Residential roads are becoming increasingly busy as traffic levels increase, and more people choose to walk and cycle.
  • Research has shown that reducing speed in residential areas has many health and well-being benefits.
  • Area-wide changes rather than individual streets as they are part of a larger road network.

Town Centres (including City Centre)

  • High volumes of vulnerable road users.
  • Reduce speed limits to survivable levels recognising that many users share the same space.
  • Existing operating (actual) speeds are normally lower than posted speeds during peak periods due to the high volume of foot traffic.
  • Creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.

Rural Roads

  • Focus on high crash risk routes.
  • Need to introduce safe and appropriate speeds across areas rather than individual roads.
  • Making our key routes safer (no speed limits greater than 80km/h without a centre median separation).

Local Board road safety reports

Each local board in the Auckland region has put together a report which outlines:

  • Road casualty trends 2013 to 2017.
  • Deaths and serious injury by travel mode.
  • Road safety focus areas for in Local Board area.
  • High risk routes in Local Board area.
  • High risk intersections in Local Board area.
  • Safety improvement projects 2018-19.
  • Pedestrian safety and shared path network expansion 2018-19.
  • Speed management investigations 2018-19.
  • Road safety and school travel behaviour activities 2018-19.

Read the Local Board road safety improvements 2018 to 2019


Safer speeds - Accelerated programme

As part of our commitment to make Auckland’s roads safer, we are implementing new speed limits in a number of areas. These areas include rural roads, newly built roads, areas where development is already happening, or areas where we are being proactive and preparing for future development, and around schools.

Feedback has now closed on this programme.


For more information on this project

Contact Auckland Transport