It is now just over a year since the 50km/h speed limit trial began is parts of some Canberra suburbs. Presumably there will be some sort of evaluation before a final decision is made. But results achieved in Victoria indicate that the case for making the change permanent is compelling.
A study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre showed a decrease in pedestrian injuries and deaths of between 40 and 46 per cent across the state and a decrease in overall injuries of 13 per cent.
The Monash study showed that a pedestrian being hit by a car travelling at 60km/h had a 70 per cent chance of being killed. At 50km/h the chance is cut to 40 per cent.
The Monash figures are the more remarkable because the saving of life and limb appears to come just by posting the limits without any additional policing and with plenty of anecdotal evidence that many people continue to speed despite the new limits. The study showed that if everyone kept the limits 90 lives would be saved in Victoria and 1000 fewer people would suffer injury. So arguments that the new limit would not be policed enough or that some people would speed anyway do not hold water. It appears that the effect on the law-abiding is enough to save lives and prevent injury.
Aside from this, the lower speed limit has improved residential amenity with less noise.
The ACT should move as quickly as possible to reducing the default speed in the suburbs to 50km/h permanently. The Government should also get rid of the confusion of signs. In many places in Canberra zones jump from 60 to 40 to 50 and back to 60 in a few hundred metres. Confusion remains over what is the correct speed in a school zone during holidays. Is it 50 or 60 or does it depend on what the adjacent speed limit happens to be.
It would be far less confusing and safer to make the general limit 50 unless otherwise marked – in school zones where it would be 40 and on arterial roads with no houses where it might be 80 or 90. Too many roads with houses and shops on them have been left at 60 during the trial.
The inconvenience of the reduced limit is minimal because the new limit applies only to the small section of a journey to the nearest arterial road – usually less than a kilometre at the beginning and end of a journey. And for much of this time motorists would be going well under 50km/h whatever the actual limit is because they are cornering, moving from stationary, slowing for intersections and so on.
There would come a time when the inconvenience of a lower limit would out-weigh the benefits, but that it not the case from 60 to 50.