Raising speed limits in Australia

130km/h speed limit

Simply talk about raising speed limits in Australia and it raises the ire of many people. It’s a very polarising subject, but you make a big mistake if you see it as a black-and-white argument.

A few people react vehemently against the idea of faster legal travel speeds.

Unfortunately, their comments too often reveal a distinct lack of appreciation for the finer points of the argument. While some put forward thoughtful and valid reasons for not raising limits, others portray it as the end of the world.

Some imply that if you raise one road’s limit, you raise them all, as if 130km/h on the Hume Hwy would mean 130km/h on a mountain goat track. They take the argue way out of context, and that’s unhealthy and unhelpful.

Some worry about the slower vehicles on our roads, the ones that already can’t or won’t keep up at 100 or 110km/h. Fair comment, but they ignore the options available, some of which are used overseas to great effect. They include a ban on certain vehicles where speed limits are high, or use of minimum speed limits in different lanes on multi-lane motorways. Slow vehicles keep left (and stay there!) while faster ones can safely slide by on the right. This practise also has the effect of reinforcing the fact to faster drivers that they can expect slow vehicles in some lanes.

Some worry that raising the limit will make speeders speed even more, until we have hoons hurtling by. The evidence indicates this doesn’t happen. The Northern Territory’s Transport Minister said it himself. On the subject of the Territory’s reversion to open limits, he was quoted in the NT News as saying:

“Before the open speed limits, the average punter that drove on those roads drove between 130-140 km/h. What they find today, after the open speed limit trial is completed, the average punter still drives between 130-140km/h. To me that demonstrates quite clearly that the average person out there is driving the road responsibly.”

In my experience, cruising at 130-140km/h is a very comfortable speed on a modern bike. My R1200RT loves it, even two-up.

Some argue that we Aussies can’t drive or ride well enough to do 130km/h. I cannot accept such a generalisation. And again, there are means to deal with driving standards; there’s education, training, policing, rules and other factors that would inevitably come into the equation if we were only allowed to start working it out.

I’d argue that Victorian driving standards have fallen dramatically since the police clamped down so ridiculously on speeding. Too many Victorians seem to drive in a bored daze with no idea of what’s going on except in their speedo. I’m sure they’d be much better road users if they were permitted to get on with the task at hand.

I’ve done a lot of distance recently on country roads (not dual-carriageway highways) with 110km/h limits. Even that small boost above 100 makes a big difference to travel times, fatigue and focus. But we’ve been over the benefits of faster speed limits many times.

Yes, there are dangers in higher speeds. We already balance dangers with benefits at 100km/h, so why shouldn’t we try to do it at 130km/h?

Congratulations to the NT for going its own way with speed limits. The rest of the country needs to pay proper attention.

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