Road casualties fall after speed limit cut on busy highway

A fall in fatal and serious-injury crashes has followed a speed limit reduction along a busy section of highway, west of Nelson.
Statistics released this week show there were no fatal crashes and one serious-injury crash in the two years since the end of 2018 when the speed limit was lowered from 100kmh to 80kmh on the section of State Highway 60, known as the Coastal Highway, between McShane and Maisey Rds.

Those totals are well down on figures for 2017 and 2018 when three fatal crashes left four people dead and four serious crashes left 10 people with serious injuries.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency pointed out that the data for 2020 showing no fatal or serious-injury crashes may not be complete as it was only updated once a traffic crash report was received from police, which could take some time. It was the most up-to-date data as at March 12.

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Martin De Ruyter/Stuff
The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter joins police, fire and St John Ambulance personnel at the site of a February 2017 crash on State Highway 60 that claimed the lives of two people and injured five others.

However, even if the statistics change slightly for 2020, Waka Kotahi team lead safe road use Jessica Rattray said the fall in the speed limit helped yield a substantial reduction in the amount of road trauma along the highway.

Resident Bill Unwin, who lives beside the road , said he contemplated selling his home after a fatal crash in 2017 outside his property because the highway was dangerous.

Unwin was one of several residents who spoke at a hearing in early 2018, urging for a reduction in the speed limit.

The hearing came after a spate of serious crashes on and around the highway prompted a call in February 2018 for a safety review of the increasingly busy route by then Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith and then Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne, who urged members of the public to share their views by making a submission to the draft Regional Land Transport Plan.

Braden Fastier/Stuff
Fire crew at the scene of the three-vehicle along State Highway 60 in January 2018.

Tasman District Council transportation manager Jamie McPherson said more than 70 per cent of subsequent submissions supported a reduction in the speed limit.

While the council had not had any formal look back since the introduction of the lower speed, McPherson said he could not recall any representation to the council, via public forum or any other method, indicating people were unhappy with the change.

As a regular user of the road himself, McPherson said he believed people now seemed more comfortable driving along that stretch of the highway.

I drive that road every day, he said. It's quite a relaxed drive now.

Unwin, too, said it had become quite a pleasure to drive in the area since the speed limit had been reduced.


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