NZTA Unconvincing On Roundabout Speed

Motorists must slow down and give way at roundabouts, irrespective of the speed limit. This is reflected in the road code, and is fundamental safe driving practice. Mark Owen, Regional Performance Manager for the Transport Agency

What’s wrong with giving speed limit indicators?

By Roger Childs

Otaihanga roundaboutBack in September KIN featured an article on the lack of safe speed signs approaching the new Otaihanga Roundabout. There have been at least three accidents involving expressway trucks and obviously suggested speed limits would be useful. Around the country there are recommended speed sign approaching corners, and driving towards the Paremata Roundabout from the south there is a 50kph sign. NZTA responded to our article and emphasized slowing down coming to a roundabout, but by how much?

The current scene at the Otaihanga Roundabout

Otaihanga approachThe roundabout can be approached from three directions. So what are the speed recommendations?
~ Going north from Paraparaumu the last speed sign is 80kph and this is about 500m before the turnoff to Otaihanga.
~ Coming from Otaihanga over the railway line, the sign, just 150m from the roundabout, says 80kph.
~ Approaching from Waikanae the speed limit is 80kph after the rise from the under the railway bridge. However there is a large sign saying SLOW DOWN as you approach the roundabout.

However the reality is: there is no guidance for motorists on a safe speed for the roundabout.

Suggested speeds for bends

95 kphNew Zealand motorists are familiar with recommendations for safe speeds round bends where there is poor or no visibility and others corners where the road ahead is clear.

~ North of Turangi, on the cliff above Lake Taupo, there are 25kph recommendations on three consecutive sharp, blind corners. These are very helpful for drivers as this is a narrow and dangerous section of road.
~ At the other end of the scale, between Normanby and Eltham there are at least two 95kph suggestions for bends where motorists might think 100kph is safe.

Roundabouts can be tricky, especially where there traffic is going in various directions and at different speeds, such as at Otaihanga. Mark Owen says … when people approach the roundabout, they are required to slow down and give way, just as they are for all roundabouts.

Slow down, but how much?

Mr Owen also says: Slowing down at a roundabout greatly reduces the risk of crashes, and we would urge motorists to do so. There is no argument about that.

He also adds… regardless of the posted speed limit, a legal requirement to lower your speed already exists on the approaches to the roundabout.

That posted speed limit is 80kph, so does lowering your speed mean down to 70 or 60 or 50? Over 60kph is probably too fast and the trucks which had the accidents were probably in this zone.

Surely it would make the Otaihanga Roundabout a safer place for local motorists, through traffic, truckdrivers and tourists if there were 50kph speed signs.