Safer speeds on SH3 between Bell Block and Waitara


The NZ Transport Agency and the NZ Police are trying out a temporary 80 km/h speed limit to improve safety for people using the 4 kilometres of high-risk road between Bell Block and Waitara, just north of New Plymouth.

NZTA regional highways manager David McGonigal says that this stretch of State Highway 3’s history shows a fatal crash on average every one or two years, as well as several serious injury crashes, and reducing speeds here will make things safer for everyone using the road. The passing lanes will also be closed as part of this temporary measure, in line with the need to bring speeds down.

The changes will be implemented before Christmas, and the Transport Agency will consult with the community and stakeholders on whether it should become permanent. “The crash rate at the intersections between Mangati Road and Mahoetahi Road is one of the worst in the country and we need to make a positive change to improve its safety.

“The crash rate is simply too high along this short stretch of State Highway 3, with a number of people killed or injured.  Safer speeds can make a real difference to preventing fatal and serious accidents on our roads—something we’ve already seen with the current temporary 80km/h limit at the Princess Road intersection.”

Sergeant Stephen Richardson from Central District Road Policing is only too aware of the crashes that have occurred on this section of State Highway. Having attended numerous fatal and serious crashes, he says that despite tactics to make road users aware of the risks on Devon Road, the regularity of crashes has not decreased and speed is a major contributing factor.

Sgt Richardson says that the needless deaths and lifelong injuries and disabilities from these crashes do not need to happen and these are mostly from simple mistakes.

“By reducing the speed we increase the likelihood of survival and this is a necessity on this of road.

“If people feel that this speed is too slow he asks them to reflect on those families who have experienced loss from crashes along this stretch of highway. Given the small loss of time resulting from the lower speed versus the reduced likelihood and severity of crashes, we believe the change will be well worthwhile.”

Sgt Richardson says Police will be active in the enforcement of the new speed limits
Mr McGonigal says that the driver in a recent crash at Princess Road might not have survived if they had been travelling faster, and Sgt Richardson agrees. 

“This was still a very serious accident, but if the car had been going at the open road limit of 100 km/h, it probably wouldn’t have been survivable.  A difference in speed can be the difference between life and death,” says Sgt Richardson.

Tom Cloke of the Road Transport Association NZ also supports the proposal.  Mr Cloke states, “In this case, the small increase in travel time of around 40 seconds over the length of the proposed change will provide very significant safety benefits for the whole community.”

Information from the NZ Transport Agency regarding the crash history found that since 2008 there have been 3 fatalities, 12 serious injuries and 56 minor injuries in the area proposed for a speed limit change.  The road is considered to have a high collective risk for drivers.  Additionally the Mangati Road and Princess Street intersection are in the top twenty worst performing intersections with respect to crashes according to NZ Transport Agency crash figures.

“We know that people will always make mistakes on the road, but these mistakes don’t have to lead to deaths or serious injuries,” says Mr McGonigal.  “Safer speeds make a real difference to preventing fatal and serious accidents on our roads.  Along with safer roads and roadsides, safer vehicles, and safer use of the transport network, bringing speeds down will help limit the consequences of a crash—even when mistakes happen.”

Initially the speed limit will be posted using temporary signs from 200m north east of the Mahoetahi Road intersection to 150m southwest of the Mangati Road intersection, a distance of around 4.4km.  At the same time, the NZ Transport Agency will be seeking public feedback on this proposal while it considers permanently gazetting the lower speed limit.  Feedback in supporting, opposing or suggesting alternatives should be sent to or mailed to NZ Transport Agency, PO Box 1947, Palmerston North 4440.  In both cases it is suggested that the email or letter be headed with “Speed Limit North of New Plymouth”. 

The Transport Agency and NZ Police are working towards a safe road system that is increasingly free of death and serious injury. The Government’s Safer Journeys Action Plan 2013-2015  includes an action for the sector to develop a programme that ensures speeds on New Zealand roads are consistent and appropriate given the use, function risk and level of safety provided by the road.  In the interim, road controlling authorities continue to have a responsibility to reduce risk on existing  high risk areas.

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