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Auckland Transport

Safe speeds - the reasons Safe speeds - the reasons

Here’s why we need to slow down

One of the fastest ways to immediately bring down the high rate of deaths and serious injuries on our roads is to set safe and appropriate speeds.


Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison and Brake NZ talk about road safety.

Drivers must slow down

Good speed management gives drivers the cues they need to judge the safe and appropriate speed for the road they're on.

Our crash stats show that 80% of all deaths and serious injuries occur on 50km/h local urban roads, while 45% of all local urban deaths and serious injuries involve vulnerable road users (people walking, people on bikes, people on motorcycles, children, the elderly and the differently abled – people not in cars).

If every driver reduced their speed by 10km/h on urban roads, there would be substantial safety gains across the entire road network. Research on common driving journeys around New Zealand shows that the impact of lower speeds is marginal on overall journey time across the user’s entire journey.

See the Auckland short route study (Research report 582 Time and fuel effects on different travel speeds).

We can’t outrun physics

Humans are fragile and we are not designed to withstand the high impact forces involved in vehicle crashes. Speed dictates what happens when we crash into other cars and into other vulnerable road users. For vulnerable road users, a reduction in vehicle speed from 50km/h to 30km/h translates to a 90% chance of surviving the crash.

Watch the video to learn how driving at safe speeds increases the chances of surviving a crash.

If we need to stop suddenly, we must take the stopping distance (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) into account.

Vehicle stopping distances at different speeds

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.

Our cars

Even the best technology won't stop another car crashing into you. Cars may have evolved to go faster, but humans haven't. Our bodies feel the force of a crash the same way they did when the first car was invented.

Where does the money from speeding tickets go?

The money from infringements goes to the Government, not the Police. The collection of infringements comes at a much more significant cost including police time and energy. Police would be delighted not to have to issue any infringements, as this would show everyone was driving safely and not putting themselves or others at risk. This would see deaths and serious injuries on our roads significantly reduced.

The condition of the road

All roads are not created equal nor are the risks necessarily identifiable by a driver, and people do make mistakes. Speed is the difference between a correctable mistake and a fatal error. Even good drivers can hurt others if they are involved in a crash travelling at the wrong speed for the road and conditions. To engineer existing roads to a higher standard would cost billions of dollars and result in limited benefits.

Death and injury percentages

Who is crashing on New Zealand roads?

New Zealand drivers crash at a much higher rate than our visitors. Over the five years from 2012-2016, 6.2 percent of fatal and injury crashes involved an overseas driver, and not all overseas drivers involved in those crashes were at fault.

Updated legislation

Central government have updated the legislation for setting of speed limits and under the new speed management approach while 50km/h and 100km/h are still the default values there are options to set speed limits based on the nature of the road rather than just the surrounding land use. In the case of rural roads this allows the adoption of speed limits of 80 or 60 where the roads are not designed to operate safely at 100. In extreme cases such as narrow, winding, unsealed roads, 40 km/h may also be considered as a rural speed limit.

The roll out of lower speed limits will occur gradually across the network. Key criteria for selecting which roads to treat first include:

  • Routes with high crash rates (where speed reduction could be expected to give the best crash reductions).
  • Routes where the road conditions/geometry already encourage most drivers to drive at a lower speed and aligning the limit with the lower speeds will help to make speed limits more credible.

Read more myths and misconceptions about the speed limit bylaw on the OurAuckland website.

To learn more, see Safe Speeds FAQs.