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Following a weekend where, once again, the number of fatal traffic accidents is too high, there are calls for improved road safety and for a lowering of our national speed limit.

Those who are putting forward the case for lowering speed limits say that the rural roads aren’t suitable for the 100 km/h limit. It’s too fast. Alpine routes on the South Island, for example, have the same speed limit as long straight dual roads in the Waikato. Different roads need different speed limits, supporters of changing the speed limits argue.

The landscape in New Zealand isn’t suited to high-speed motorways. We have mountain ranges, great rivers, hilly backcountry and long distances between towns. This means our roads are narrow, twisty and – at night – very dark. Many rural roads are still unsealed – just topped with gravel rather than tarmac.

While it’s certainly true that New Zealand doesn’t have – or need – the same types of roads as in other parts of the world, lowering the speed limit every time we have a weekend with high road casualties is not the answer. Does that mean when there’s a weekend without an accident it gets raised again? Like a kind of reward for safer driving?

Of course speed is a factor – but so are things like road conditions, the weather, day or night driving, whether drivers have been drinking, if the cars are safe, if there’s a barrier separating each carriageway, better driver training…

Driving is a dangerous occupation. A vehicle’s driver has a huge responsibility not only to him or herself and any passengers but also to other road users. Someone could be the safest driver possible, in the safest car and take the most care, but in order for everyone on the roads to be safe it takes every road user to be responsible.

It’s not just a problem on weekends where there are a high number of incidents. Any accident on the road is a tragedy.

[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry amongst your students: [/colored_box]  [colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges

1. Why do people drive too fast?

2. Is is just the driver’s responsibility to be safe?

3. A few years back children as young as 15 in New Zealand were allowed to drive cars on the road. Is this a sensible age to be driving?

[/colored_box] [colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:

1. How would you get drivers to obey the speed limit? Think of a campaign or a way to persuade drivers to slow down and take care – particularly in areas where there are children like near schools, swimming pools, parks or the beach.

2. This article is arguing that it’s not just slowing down that will help reduce accidents on the roads, but other factors like road surfaces, weather conditions or car maintenance are linked to casualties on the road. What do you think? Do you think slowing down is the only answer? What other ways can drivers be safe on the roads? Write your response to this article in the form of a letter, and address it to someone who you think needs to hear your arguments and opinions.

[/colored_box] [colored_box color=”red”]Have Your Say: [socialpoll id=”[socialpoll id=”2271010″] [/colored_box]


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