New 30km/h speed limits are being trialled around inner Melbourne suburbs to reduce collisions. But it’s not all that well thought out, writes Matt Calvitto
Melbourne’s population is booming, and, many of the city’s newest residents are drawn to its inner suburbs. With population growth there’s more traffic, and with more traffic there is evidently more road users. Road users can consist of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The more road users, the greater the chance of a collision of some sort.
Yarra Council in Melbourne’s inner north has dreamt up a plan that it believes will reduce the likelihood of collisions: 30km/h speed limits. More specifically, cars will have to stick to a 30km/h speed limit in some sections of Collingwood and Fitzroy for a period of 12 months, commencing in September 2019.
Researchers from Monash University found that lowering a 40km/h speed zone by 10km/h reduces by half a pedestrian’s chance of dying if they are hit by a car. This is good news.
However, such a lowly speed limit may not be a safe as you might think. I’m a motoring journalist, and as you’d expect I like cars and driving. A lot. I also think Yarra Council’s legislators have overlooked a few safety features on modern cars that are dedicated to reducing or eliminating collisions with pedestrians.
An example of such tech is Volvo’s City Safety system, which uses a camera and a radar to scan the road for oncoming cars, pedestrians and even large animals. If the car detects and imminent prang, it’ll jump on the anchors automatically and in some newer models, it’ll even help out with the steering.
Most modern cars have more powerful brakes which allows the driver to pull up more quickly in the event of an emergency.
I’ll also let you in on a little secret: most car cruise control systems don’t work below 40 or 45km/h which means that you won’t be able to use your cruise control as a safety net in these new speed zones – and that’s all it should be, a safety net – which also means that instead of keeping your eyes on the road looking out for pedestrians, you’ll have your eyes welded to the speedo of your car to ensure you don’t cop a fine.
And naturally, if you do exceed the speed limit and get caught, the State Revenue Office will come after your hard earned dollars.
Wouldn’t you rather keep your eyes on the road watching for other road users than your speedometer? I would. That in itself will reduce the likelihood of a collision. Oh, and don’t touch your smartphone or smartwatch. That’ll also help.
You’ll also probably find maintaining such a lowly speed over a lengthy period of time can be difficult. And frustrating. Which’ll probably lead to road rage and traffic congestion.
So is implementing a 30km/h speed limit really a good idea? No, not really. Drivers will be forced to stare at their instrument clusters rather than the road ahead and they’ll be grumpy. It will however, make the government money; most likely lots of it.
If everyone sticks to 40, scans the road and surroundings ahead, remove all possible distractions and drives as vigilantly as possible, these should be the strongest factors that contribute to road safety for all. It’ll be better for your hip pocket, too.