So, I’ve been “on” about the issue of speeding for a while now. No. Not like you think. I don’t have a problem with SPEED, as such, nor with SPEEDING, as such. I have a problem with the speed, as a function of risk and prevailing danger.
Imagine a deserted road with no other vehicles, in daylight conditions. Now imagine the speed limit being 120 Km/h and your speed being 140 Km/h – or 20 Km/h over the speed limit while you’re completely sober. While you would be speeding, you wold most certainly not be at risk or a danger (providing your vehicle is modern and properly maintained, of course).
Now imagine a very busy road with lots of other vehicles, in at night. Now imagine the speed limit being 60 Km/h and your speed being 60 Km/h – or not over the speed limit while you’re not completely sober (you’ve had two drinks). While you would not be speeding, per se, you wold most certainly be at much higher risk or a danger (especially if your vehicle is not modern and properly maintained, of course).
Now, the question is – just how logical is this dogmatic thinking and belief that “speed kills?” Many people will quickly state that “it is obvious” that “the faster you go” the quicker you would die “if you hit something.” That’s true – in layman’s terms. How do I prove it? Well – there is a very interesting article that appeared online, as a follow-up to our last blog post. It appeared on the Motorbikewriter web-site. The original article can be read here.
The article leaves me with the following thought: There was a speed limit. It was removed. Safety IMPROVED and everyone did nto start SPEEDING like bats out of hell! Then the speed limit was re-introduced and the risk went back up! Why would anyone do this? It’s easy, I think: You cannot “collect cash” for people “speeding,” if there is no speed limit. I would bet money that the “powers that be” thought they would allow it and use the “obvious increase in danger and fatalities” to argue the re-introduction of speed limits later. When it went wrong, they just went with “old school thinking” anyway: There HAS to be speed limits. Makes no sense, right? To me neither.
Here’s the story I was referring to:
Despite a zero fatality rate on highways with open speed limits, the Northern Territory has once again returned to 130km/h speed restrictions. The NT used to have open speed limits on its highways, but in 2006, the then Labor Government imposed a 130km/h limit. Instead of accidents reducing, they increased.
In fact, 307 died in the NT over the next six years, 15 more than in the previous six years. Last year, the NT government decided to permanently allow motorists to choose their own speed on a 336-km section of the Stuart Highway after a successful 18-month evidence-based trial. Despite the trial’s success and the past year’s zero road fatalities, this new government announced after recent elections that they would remove the unlimited sections.
It is now official. They will return to 130 km/h from November 21. Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison says their fatality rate is the highest in the country. “Speed is a contributing factor to 25% of deaths on Territory roads and we must do everything we can to reduce that rate,” she says.
However, traffic counter data from the previous NT government’s six-month trial showed there was only a small increase in driver speed in the trial sections, with 85% of drivers travelling 133-139 km/h. Together with the zero fatality toll on the unrestricted highways surely it proves that open speed limits work and motorists aren’t so stupid as to consistently ride or drive outside their comfort zone.
Veteran motorcycle travel guide Peter Colwell says NT motorists will now return to speedo gazing. “So now we will have fatigue and speedo-gazing fatalities in the NT as well as everywhere else,” he says. While NT surgeon David Read supports the restriction, he also points out that the Territory has very low seat belt usage and very high drink driving rates.
Peter points out that the vocal medical fraternity are not necessarily experts on road safety. “Some might not even drive,” he says. “They cannot claim any more expertise in road safety than the average citizen, perhaps less, given they are among the busiest people in the land in their ‘offices’. “They repair broken bodies but don’t tell people how to live, so why tell them how to drive? It’s not logical.” The yo-yo speed limits of the NT over the past few years are a direct result of party politics. “Why are speed limits political?” Peter asks. “It’s asinine. The Newell Highway in NSW was dropped to 100km/h under Labor, but went back up to 110 when the government changed. “That is really ridiculous when you think about it.”
Advocates of increasing the speed limit on some highways say motorists are safer because they focus more when they are driving faster. In fact, the only drawback in allowing faster speed limits on certain open highways is that fuel consumption increases substantially. The optimum speed for fuel economy on most motorcycles is about 80-km/h, depending on the aerodynamic design of the bike. If you’d like to try the NT’s open speed limits before they close again, be aware that the un-restricted zone is only on 336 km of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and the Ali Curung rail overpass.
I’ve ridden the Stuart Highway before and it provides plenty of vision, but even at 130 km/h you have to watch out for emus running out from behind salt bushes close to the road. The surface was also fairly bumpy and the big old Harley Ultra I was riding two-up started bottoming out on some of the bigger lumps.
However, the previous government spent $4.4 million upgrading the Stuart Highway to suit the higher speeds. It also allocated $2.5 million to clear vegetation from the edge of the highway, widen curves and improve the marking and signage.
So, ultimately, the highway is now safer, yet slower!