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Simon Bridges

24 January, 2013

Variable speed limit signs to improve rural school road safety

As most children prepare to go back to school next week, Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges has today announced a significant increase in variable speed limit signs. This is part of a wider rural school safety programme launched today.

"Road safety around rural schools is a major concern in many rural communities, where parents dropping off and picking up their children must also deal with high-speed through traffic,” says Mr Bridges.

The first step in the rural school safety programme will be an increase in the number of schools trialling variable speed limit signs designed to reduce speeds during school drop-off and pick-up periods, from the current seven to 23 sites by the end of 2013.  

Variable speed limits trials at rural schools began in early 2012 as part of the Government’s Safer Journeys action plan.

“The NZTA’s evaluation of the trial has shown that the variable speed limits have been effective in reducing vehicle speeds both before and after school and in improving driver behaviour around schools.”

In addition to the increase of schools conducting a variable speed limit trial next year, two other initiatives will be undertaken as part of the rural school safety programme.

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education, local councils and the Police, the NZTA will also assess the degree of road safety risk and prioritise all other rural and peri-urban schools and identify actions needed to improve safety at the highest risk schools.

“A High Risk Rural Schools Guide will also be developed to be used by communities, schools and road controlling authorities to assess risk and identify opportunities for improving road safety at rural schools.”

The plan is to produce a two-part High Risk Schools Guide, one for rural schools and then one for urban schools.

Safer Journeys – New Zealand’s road safety strategy to 2020 – envisions a safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury.  Safe speed is an important part of this system.  Through the rural school safety programme we are helping to ensure some of our most vulnerable are better protected on our roads.” 

Questions and answers: variable speed limit signs

1.    What is a variable speed limit sign?

It is an electronic sign which allows the speed limit to be changed locally at agreed times and to agreed speed limits.

A variable speed limit of 70km/h is being trialled at schools on roads with a 100km/h permanent speed limit.  A variable speed limit of 60km/h is being trialled for schools on roads with an 80km/h permanent speed limit. 

2.    What schools are taking part in the variable speed limit trial?

Seven trial schools have signs installed to date.  These schools are:

·         Kai Iwi School, Wanganui
·         Kaihere School, Hauraki District
·         Myross Bush School, Invercargill
·         Opiki School, Horowhenua
·         Paki Paki School, Hastings District
·         Te Uku School, Waikato
·         Whenuakite School, Thames Coromandel

These schools were chosen based on road safety concerns expressed by the local communities.  Initial workshops were carried out to identify particular issues relating to road safety at each school during drop-off and pick-up periods.

Other criteria included the school’s location (required to be on a road with either an 80km/h or 100km/h permanent speed limit) and a turning traffic risk to be present outside the school.

3.    What happens next?

The NZTA and its road safety partners plan to expand the number of variable speed limit trial sites from the current seven to 23 sites by the end of 2013.

The additional schools are:

·         Amisfield School, Waikato
·         Ararimu School, Papakura
·         Dairy Flat School, Dairy Flat
·         Elstow-Waihou Combined School, Matamata Piako
·         Kaimai School, Western Bay of Plenty
·         Loburn School, Waimakariri
·         Newstead School, Waikato
·         Opoutere School, Thames Coromandel
·         Pahoia School, Western Bay of Plenty
·         Puni School, Waiuku
·         Pyes Pa Road School, Western Bay of Plenty
·         Swannanoa School, Waimakariri
·         Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha School, Matamata Piako
·         Tirohia School, Hauraki
·         Waikuka School, Waimakariri
·         Westmere School, Wanganui

The success at the current trial sites suggests that it is worth expanding the trial at different locations, including local roads.  Further discussions are underway with these local communities before the NZTA can confirm they will be included in the trial.

For further information: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/rural-school-speed-management-trial/docs/rural-school-road-safety-qas.pdf

  • Simon Bridges
  • Transport