Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1329 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The Bill itself is very short and simple, but its implications for road safety and urban amenity in Canberra are huge. The Motor Traffic Act, as it stands, sets a general urban speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour, but allows for higher speed limits on specific roads where signposted to this effect. So if a road does not have speed signs on it, you can assume that the speed limit is 60. However, arterial and other major roads in Canberra are signposted with higher speed limits of up to 100 kilometres per hour depending on the type of road.
My Bill simply lowers the general, or default, speed limit across the residential area from 60 to 50 kilometres per hour. The Bill does not affect the higher speed limits that are already set on the main arterial roads. Nor does it affect the ability of the Government in the future to set different speed limits on particular roads by signposting. The lower 40 kilometres per hour speed zones outside schools will also still apply. The debate over lowering the speed limit on residential streets has been around for many years. Many other countries in the world, particularly in Europe, already have a 50 kilometres per hour speed limit on residential streets.
In recent years there have been reports and submissions from a wide number of organisations in the transport sector that have come out in support of lowering the speed limit in residential areas for safety and amenity reasons. These include the Austroads report on urban speed management in Australia - Austroads is an organisation representing all State road authorities - and the New South Wales Parliament's Staysafe Committee report on a lower urban speed limit for New South Wales, both released in 1996. Just last year a new report from the Federal Office of Road Safety was released on travelling speed and a risk of crash involvement. The Australian College of Road Safety, with membership across a range of motoring organisations, the NRMA and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria have all publicly supported the 50-kilometre speed limit on residential streets.
The road safety benefits of a lower speed limit have been proven over and over. You do not need to be a scientist to realise that under the laws of physics the faster you travel, the harder the impact will be when you hit another object. Conversely, the slower you are travelling, the less risk of damage there is in an accident. Studies in various cities have shown that lowering the speed limit to 50 kilometres per hour would reduce accidents by 15 per cent, injuries by 20 per cent and fatalities by 25 per cent. Cars travelling at 50 kilometres per hour can stop 10 metres shorter than cars travelling at 60 kilometres per hour. If a person jumps out on to the road 40 metres in front of a car travelling at 60 kilometres per hour, the car will hit that person at a speed of 44 kilometres an hour. The same car travelling at 50 kilometres would be able to stop. That is obviously a very significant difference.
The latest Federal Office of Road Safety study found that a 10-kilometre reduction in travelling speeds of cars involved in crashes would probably result in a reduction of at least 42 per cent in the number of crashes. In Canberra, most of our traffic accidents involve excessive speeding. A 1996 ABS survey found that 60 per cent of Canberra drivers regularly exceeded speed limits by over 10 kilometres per hour. It is also important to note that over 40 per cent of traffic accidents in Canberra occur on residential streets.