Territorians have always had a love affair with driving at speed.
Just consider for a moment the controversy that raged about the removal of the ability to drive at any speed on the Stuart Highway. Or the raging popularity of events such as the V8s. And I get it, really, I get it but seriously? Enough is enough.
The speed limit across Darwin is 50 km per hour unless signposted otherwise. School zones are 40 km from 7 am to 5 pm. But remember, you still need to drive to conditions and on wet days, it is sometimes better to drive below the limit.
Across Darwin more and more people are demanding that drivers be made to slow down in the suburbs. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you view it, we have plenty of wide roads, built for speed limits over those that are posted. We have wonderful crescents that sweep through the suburb perfect for speeding, perfect for hooning.
How do we as a community deal with this issue of speeding?
We should expect our police to be enforcing the road rules, utilising the best technology available to them. Our speeding penalties are some of the lowest in the country, is it time to increase them?
In general signs do not work. Last year we trialled a “50 unless signposted” sign on the entrances to a well-known street in the Northern Suburbs. There was no noticeable decrease in the speed on the street, in fact, the average speed increased.
We have had some success with the temporary “Check your speed” signs, particularly around school zones but unfortunately after a while drivers become immune to these signs. However as an education tool they have been outstandingly successful and there has been a noticeable difference while they are in situ. I am therefore arranging for more of these signs to be acquired by Council.
And then there is the sticky issue of speed bumps or humps. Speed humps do have their uses but there are several downsides:
- They can be expensive to install
- They do interfere with response times of emergency vehicles
- They can reduce property values, who really wants to buy near a speed hump
- They increase noise levels as cars scrape, rev and brake
- They increase wear and tear on vehicles
- They are expensive to remove
- They can increase air pollution due to excessive braking and accelerating
- They can reduce fuel efficiency
Line marking, build outs, roundabouts and traffic lights are all legitimate traffic engineer solutions to speeding drivers but they all come at a cost, some really significant. Any of these solutions are still dependent on the Police enforcing the law.
So how does Council decide on whether a road needs treatment or not?
We assess the accidents that are reported to Police. We count the numbers of cars that are using the road and we also clock their speed.
What we are looking for are consistent and frequent excessive speeds above the 85 percentile. We also have to judge if we have sufficient funds to meet the costs of whatever treatment is suggested.
Ultimately the cost of speeding to the community is the loss of lives.
So please slow down and save lives. Simple.