New Zealand / Transport

Reducing speed limits outside schools: 'Not happening as fast as it could'

13:52 pm on 24 January 2020

A child safety campaigner is calling for speed restrictions outside schools to be fast-tracked.

Owairaka District School road patrol. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

The government has committed to doing this over the next decade, but with children set to return to school from next week, transport authorities are being asked why the wait?

The students of Owairaka District School in Auckland will be returning to the classroom in the next few weeks.

Their school is on Richardson Rd, a busy arterial route in the suburb of Mount Roskill.

Outside are signs which signal a lower 40km/h speed limit during school hours, and principal Sheryl Fletcher said she was surprised that is not standard for all schools across the country.

Owairaka District School principal Sheryl Fletcher. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

"It was kind of news to me that the 40km/h zone wasn't around all schools, because I had been a principal at a previous school, and I can't remember, it was ages ago, maybe as many as eight years ago, that that became a 40km/h zone," Fletcher said.

"So, my expectation is that all schools are 40km/h [zones], and I was surprised to hear that wasn't the case."

Fletcher said the speed reduction outside the school has made the children, their parents and their teachers feel much safer moving to and from school.

But they still notice speeding drivers from time to time.

"The students who are out there on road patrol, who I always say to the students in Year 6 that 'this is the most important job in the school', sometimes they will say to me or whoever is out on duty with them, 'wow, that was fast, wasn't it?'."

The reduced speed limit is important outside Owairaka District School.

There is a crest on the road approaching the school, which obscures the zebra crossing outside the school, making it more dangerous.

The government has set a goal to have lower speed limits outside at least 40 percent of schools in the next three years and for most to be down to 30km/h over the next decade.

But Lucinda Rees, who campaigns for safer speeds near schools and was consulted on the government's new Road to Zero safety strategy, is unhappy about having to wait.

"It's not happening as fast as it could," she said.

"Also, they have not promised consistency of speed limits outside schools.

"I mean, just suggesting that 40km/h when appropriate, I just think is irresponsible just because of the likelihood of it doubling the probability of death."

Rees said if it were up to her, the changes would be made tomorrow.

"It would be 30km/h outside every school, consistently, because I think drivers need that.

"Also, obviously it's an important thing for children to have safer speed limits outside schools, and absolutely no more than 60km/h outside any school at any time."

In a statement, the Ministry of Transport manager of mobility and safety Brent Johnston said a number of councils, including Auckland, were already on board and tackling unsafe speeds.

He said by the end of the decade councils would have to have reduced speed limits outside all schools, be they variable or permanent speed limits.

But he said there needed to be a change in legislation to allow for the wholesale change of speed limits near schools.

Transport officials are working through those changes now, and Johnston said once that was done, lowering limits would be much simpler and more transparent.