The inconvenient truth: lowered speed limits have not reduced road deaths

Ordinary people frequently die at legal speeds on substandard roads damaged by trucks.


2022’s high road toll was not bad luck, but bad management, says the car review website dogandlemon.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

"The government’s attempt to reduce road deaths through mass speed limit reductions has been a dismal failure. Hundreds of kilometres of New Zealand state highways have already have reduced speed limits, but the road toll has gone up, not down. That’s because the yobbos who cause most speed-related accidents are usually blotto and frequently ignore speed signs. The police and politicians can squirm and evade all they like, but the fact remains: the road toll rose significantly after one of the biggest blanket speed reductions in the country’s history"

Matthew-Wilson says the police and government are in complete denial. 

“According to the government and police theory (which says that lowering the speed of the average driver will reduce crashes), the road toll should have dropped like a stone. In fact, the opposite occurred: the provisional 2022 road toll leapt from 318 in 2021 to 377 in 2022. The holiday road toll leapt from 16 in 2021 to 22 in 2022.” [1]

 “Even after these ghastly 2022 statistics, the government position hasn’t changed. They’re now saying that, even if their policies didn’t work, they SHOULD have worked, so they’re going to continue to reduce the speed limits anyway."


Killer Drivers

“However, according to the Ministry of Transport, speed is the primary cause of just 15% of fatalities, and almost all these speed-related fatalities involve yobbos[2], blotto drivers or reckless motorcyclists.”

“This group typically ignores speed signs, speed cameras and road safety messages. Think of the kids ram-raiding at present: you could drop every speed limit in Aotearoa to 10km, and it wouldn't make the slightest difference to the way these idiots behave.”


Need to Refocus Enforcement

Matthew-Wilson is also highly critical of the way that the police heavily enforce speed limits, but “barely enforce" other road laws.

“Why is the road toll so high? One of the reasons is because the police were so busy handing out speeding tickets that they weren’t enforcing the laws on  seatbelt wearing and cellphone use..”


Safe Roads Save Lives

“It’s hard to change the minds of idiots, but it’s reasonably easy to change roads. If you want proof that bad roads, rather than speed, are another major problem, look to the Waikato Expressway. The Waikato Expressway has one of the highest speed limits in the country, yet it’s also one of the safest roads in the country.”

“Speed is never safe or unsafe; it’s merely appropriate or inappropriate to the conditions. On a racetrack,150kp/h might be safe. Around children, 15kp/h may be too fast." 


Bad Roads Kill

“Sadly, the Waikato Expressway, which is a properly-built highway, is the exception to the rule in the Waikato region. Most Waikato roads are crap; that’s the main reason the Waikato road toll is so high.”

 “The main reason these roads are crap is because they’re badly built and poorly maintained. The main reason these roads are badly built and poorly maintained is because of trucks.


Trucks Kill One in Five

About 20% of the road toll involves trucks. So, trucks are actually a far greater menace on our roads than speeding drivers.”

Trucks also cause 80% of road damage but pay less than a quarter of the cost of road construction and repair.”


Corruption Keeps the Trucks Running, Ordinary People Pay the Price.

“Trucking companies are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. As a result, trucking companies get rich while our Third World roads kill multiple innocent people annually.  Many of the worst accidents of 2022 were caused by a simple lack of a median barrier and many of these accidents involved commercial trucks.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of the seven people killed in June after a van crashed into a truck on State Highway 1 south of Picton.

“This family were not speeding. They could have been travelling at half the speed and they would still have been annihilated.”

In a separate accident in November, three members of one family were killed in a head-on collision with a truck.

“No one has suggested these families were speeding. They simply made a simple mistake that cost them their lives.”


The Simple Solution with Near-100% Success Rate

Matthew-Wilson says that changing the roads (rather than merely reducing speeds) is proven and usually immediately effective.

“The Centential Highway near Wellington went from being one of the most dangerous roads in the country to one of the safest. The main change was a simple median barrier that stopped cars colliding head-on”

“Between 2005 and October 2015, the Centennial Highway barrier was hit over 100 times without a single death.”[3]


The Funds are There, They’re Just Not Being Collected

Matthew-Wilson repeats: “If the trucking industry paid its share of the costs of road construction and repair, there would be ample funds to build and maintain a safe national roading network.


The Community Needs to be Involved

Matthew-Wilson says much of the pressure to lower speed limits came from environmentalists, who see lowered speed limits as a way of both reducing emissions and saving lives.

“I’m pleased that we’re discussing the role that cars in our lives. But this discussion has to be open, fair and include all parties."


The Greens Appear to have Given up Fighting the Trucking Industry

Trucks emit almost a quarter of our total transport emissions. In 2016, the Greens promised to move half of New Zealand’s freight by rail and sea within 10 years.”

"The reality is that trucks currently transport 92.8% of New Zealand’s total freight by weight, with 5.6% going by rail and 1.6% on coastal shipping.  [4]

Matthew-Wilson adds:
“The reason the trucking scam continues is because politicians – including Green politicians – let it continue.”[5]
"The government has had nearly six years to bring the trucking industry under control. Instead of making the trucking industry pay its way, the government actually dropped, not increased, the amount that each truck pays. And, there were 59 extra dead bodies our roads last year, many of which died in accidents in trucks."

"Is is any wonder that voters are suspicious and distrustful of the government’s entire transport agenda?" 



[1] “Matthew-Wilson points out that the same thing happened in the Auckland region, which has had multiple, enforced speed reductions over 39% of the road network since 2020 yet has suffered a massive increase in road deaths. Far from reducing casualties, the number of deaths also rose. In 2019, there were 42 road deaths in the Auckland region. The speed limit was lowered in 2020. In 2022 there were 54 deaths, five down from the year before, but far higher than before the speed limits were reduced.”

“Auckland Transport has had the cheek to claim that there was a reduction in deaths and injuries on the roads where the speeds were reduced. What they don’t mention is that these speed limit reductions occurred during the middle of the 2020 Covid lockdown, which halted most private car use and caused the road toll to plummet nationally. As soon as the Covid restrictions were lifted, Auckland’s road toll rocketed back up, to higher levels than before the speed limit restrictions were imposed.”

[2] Young, poorly educated males with anti-social attitudes, and those who associate with them. Most grow out of their anti-social attitudes. Those that don’t grow out of their anti-social attitudes remain a high risk throughout their lives.

[3] A study by Monash University of the effectiveness of roadside fencing and median barriers concluded that: “reductions of up to 90% in death and serious injury can be achieved, with no evidence of increased road trauma for motorcyclists.”

[4] Moving freight by road is expected to grow. Heavy vehicles, most of which are for freight, make up less than 4% of the vehicle fleet but emit almost a quarter of our total transport emissions."

[5] Matthew-Wilson is also 'deeply depressed' that the Green politicians appear to have done a secret deal with the trucking industry. 
“After initially opposing the government's speed reductions, the trucking industry mysteriously changed its mind  and agreed to support the plan. The Green politicians  then mysteriously failed to make much significant public fuss about the continuation of the trucking industry's taxpayer-funded scam.  This is all the more outrageous given that most ordinary environmentalists are strongly opposed to the trucking industry handouts.”