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Roadwork Speed Zones Increasingly Pointless

By MatthewOfCanberra - 18 July 2010 28

Something really ought to be done about the way 40km/hr signs are deployed around roadworks in the ACT.   It isn’t working, and it’s annoying road-users.

A recent informal poll at my workplace suggested that everybody agrees that road workers need to be protected, and that 40 km/hr signs are right and proper when they are actually next to roadworks.  But pretty much everyone thinks they way they’re being used in the ACT is ridiculous, and the general view is that they don’t work.

In the ACT, 40 zones are being deployed when it just isn’t necessary – when there is no danger to drivers or workers (or even, as has recently been the case along Belconnen way, when there are no workers present at all).  Over the years, I have actually seen 40 zones put up a fortnight before any roadworks began, and not taken down for a fortnight after they were complete (Northborne avenue. 1999/2000).   The signs are sometimes placed up to a hundred meters before and after the roadworks.  Why?  What possible purpose does that serve?  If people are going to speed, they’ll speed no matter far out the signs are.  How about just putting the signs next to the roadworks?

The problem is that road users aren’t buying it.  They might as well have 60  km/hr signs on the current Belconnen way roadworks, because that’s how fast the traffic moves on weekdays.  If that’s a danger to workers, then the current approach is failing them.

Part of the problem is that the zones (at least leading in and out of Belconnen) are not being enforced properly.  Nobody believes they’re going to get caught, and they’re basically right.

A more serious problem (I believe) is that drivers feel like they’re being treated like mugs.  The signs don’t realistically consider the road conditions and they apply when no work is under way at all.   And I don’t just mean during particular hours of the day – there was a 40 zone beneath an overpass at Glenloch/GDE for several weeks while all work had quite obviously halted and there was no risk to anybody.  Nobody is going to obey that sort of silliness forever and, after a couple of weeks of ignoring the signs, drivers simply kept ignoring them when work resumed.  Total benefit to road workers – nil.   And steadily making the zones longer is no solution either – it just compounds the problem and actively encourages drivers to ignore the signs and use their own judgment.

I think we can do better.  If speed zones really do protect road workers, then we really ought to do better.  Here’s my suggestion:

(1) Start putting up sensible speed zones.  Don’t stretch them out over kilometers if the work is only happening in a small section.  If 80 is too fast because a lane is closed but there’s no actual work going on, then consider a 60 zone.  Don’t just whack 40 signs from Belconnen to Braddon to protect the witches’ hats or some machinery parked next to black mountain CSIRO.   Road users just aren’t that silly.  Ideally, I’d like to see drivers be allowed to use their judgment – perhaps allow them to do 60 in the zone, but slow down to 40 when passing any people.  It’s basically what drivers are now doing anyway.

(2) Start properly enforcing the speed zones.   If the people setting out the signs started being reasonable, I doubt many would protest if police really threw the book at drivers who ignore them.   Put in place a sensible set of rules and put a radar camera on every works site.  Lets start protecting the workers and respecting road users.

Disclaimer: I have never received a ticket for speeding in a roadwork zone.

What’s Your opinion?


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28 Responses to
Roadwork Speed Zones Increasingly Pointless
Slashor 9:45 pm 18 Jul 10

I would concur with the sentiment of the OP. I personally drive the speed limit to annoy other road users. (Strange that driving it should do that though). Sometimes it is rather ridiculous how far out the speed zone change is and more so after it.

I think people would be far more likely to drive the limit if they were put closer to the road works and were only up for the duration of the need. If it is nighttime and the danger posed is no longer there then they should be removed or perhaps the limit increased.

buzz819 9:13 pm 18 Jul 10

UrbanAdventure.org said :

While I find the number of 40 K zones annoying, I find them annoying for a different reason. I find them annoying for the number of lead footed idiots who sit up the rear end of my car as I drive at 40ks. Then the number of idiots who try overtake me as we’re supposed to be merging lanes, almost resulting in accidents.

This has been discussed before, and only recently too. The fact is, driving at 20 km less than 60 even over a 1km distance will only delay you by about half a minute. At 60 km an hour, it should take you 1 minute to cover 1 km. At 40 km/h it will take you 1 minute 30 seconds to cover a kilometre. Wow, with that extra 30 seconds you could have achived ….err nothing.

While I do agree some of the road works in this town seem insane, reallly there are better things to complain about. Also, if it saves a life, then I’m happy to drive at 40.

Yes, but you are still getting there faster yeah? Even if it is only 30 seconds….

bd84 8:47 pm 18 Jul 10

There a few issues here, one is that there seems to be no or little control or training for contractors using speed limit signs. A good example is the Tuggeranong Parkway where the roadworks zone are announced with no prior warning just sticking up 80kph roadworks signs, 50m later it changes to 60kph and 10m later it changes to 40kph. Then they forget to take down or cover the reduced speed limits signs when there is no roadworks, danger to workers, or dangerous road conditions.

Of course there is the idiot drivers, a great example were I came accross a couple of cars (one was a taxi) doing 90kph in clear traffic along the parkway, overtake them, a couple of kms later at the roadworks they’re still doing the 90kph flashing headlights and cutting in front of drivers obeying the roadworks speed limits. You can’t beat the morons on the road in this city..

It’s no surprise about the lack of enforcement, the roadworks zones are just as well patrolled as the rest of our roads..

darkmilk 8:05 pm 18 Jul 10

Be glad it’s 40, in South Australia it’s 25 km/h !

lobster 6:33 pm 18 Jul 10

If it’s an 80 zone like out the front of Russel, then then it should be 40 when workers are present next to the road and 60 when there is work going on near by that might affect the road.

Finces should be enforced for breaking the spead limits – BUT fines should also be enforced for unneccesary speed limits to the people who are putting them up. That way, there should only be road works speed limits that are neccesary.

that way, you don’t get traffic flowing really slowly for no reason and you also get traffic flowing at the speed limit as well.

Also. I am glas that they got the untrue machine that said what speed you were doing out the front of russell.It used to sya I was going up to 20kmh faster than I was acutally travelling. Checked against my speedo and my co workers speedo and on two different GPS systems and it was worng.

WillowJim 6:12 pm 18 Jul 10

Do you really find it that hard to stick at, say, between 40 and 50km/h over a few kilometres? Why?

Regardless of whether workers are present, the speed limits are reduced because changes to the driving conditions – things like narrower lanes, narrower road shoulders, the lack of gutters or the lack of safety rails – change the margin of error for when things go wrong. These are the issues that are considered in detail when speed limits are applied.

Yes, many drivers ignore these speed limits. That doesn’t mean we all should; it just means they’re not being sufficiently enforced.

georgesgenitals 5:34 pm 18 Jul 10

UrbanAdventure.org said :

Also, if it saves a life, then I’m happy to drive at 40.

A very good point. I wonder how many deaths there are in accidents that don’t involve pedestrians where speeds are below 60?

Ivan76 5:19 pm 18 Jul 10

Could it be that the workers putting out these signs are just being lazy?
There was work done on Trickett st in Holt last year which required the majority of the road to be blocked off, this work was finished on a Thursday as I recall but the road remained blocked off. Eventually (and i am assuming here) one of the residents who couldn’t access their home must have moved the roadblock as it was all pushed to one side effectively reopening the street.

About a week later the workers returned to collect the signs.

threepaws 3:57 pm 18 Jul 10

Travelling overseas recently I noticed signs posted at roadworks that “Speed fines double when workers present”. Quite clever, and people seemed to obey.

astrojax 1:46 pm 18 Jul 10

The problem is that road users aren’t buying it.

i’m sorry, i don’t understand this – as a licenced driver you are obligated to drive according to the posted speed limit for the road upon which you’re travelling. the amount of time you’ll ‘lose’ by adhering to these limits is so negligible as to be ridiculous. really, what is your problem?? how hard is it to manouevre a vehicle along a road way at 20, or 40, or 50kmh? you may want to drive faster; if that’s the case, go get your racing licence and find a track somewhere – but don’t do it on public roads.

thanks urbanadventure, you get the picture…

troll-sniffer 1:18 pm 18 Jul 10

People who rabbit on about why don’t you just do the limit displayed without question have zero understanding of human psychology. Sure, they might be technically right in their approach but you cannot change reality by inappropriate legislation, no matter how hard you try.

The whole question of inappropriate speed limits is a lot bigger than the simple-minded traffic ‘engineers’ employed by the guvmnt can grasp. Once you get a section of the population questioning the validity of speed limits, and rightly so a lot of the time, the effectiveness of all limits, and by association, a lot of the wider road safety messages, become meaningless and questionable to a large section of the population, with obvious long-term consequences.

If the guvmnt is serious about changing road behaviour they should be employing some knowledgeable psychologists to work with the traffic engineers to ensure the messages are getting across in a coherent way.

UrbanAdventure.org 11:56 am 18 Jul 10

While I find the number of 40 K zones annoying, I find them annoying for a different reason. I find them annoying for the number of lead footed idiots who sit up the rear end of my car as I drive at 40ks. Then the number of idiots who try overtake me as we’re supposed to be merging lanes, almost resulting in accidents.

This has been discussed before, and only recently too. The fact is, driving at 20 km less than 60 even over a 1km distance will only delay you by about half a minute. At 60 km an hour, it should take you 1 minute to cover 1 km. At 40 km/h it will take you 1 minute 30 seconds to cover a kilometre. Wow, with that extra 30 seconds you could have achived ….err nothing.

While I do agree some of the road works in this town seem insane, reallly there are better things to complain about. Also, if it saves a life, then I’m happy to drive at 40.

urchin 11:01 am 18 Jul 10

come on, there are 40 km zones where there are no people and no work. they seem to be stuck up there simply because at some point they either did construction work or plan to do so at some future date.

more to the point, though, why can’t they simply finish one spot before starting another… why must we have dozens upon dozens of unfinished projects going simultaneously? would it really be impossible to reduce the number of ongoing projects while increasing the speed at which they are completed? how long is the “bus lane” on belco highway going to be there, for example. painting a patch of road red seems to be taking almost a year to complete (when you include stuff ups)

Power Protect 10:27 am 18 Jul 10

Just becuase there are no workers doesn’t mean that there aren’t any reasons to slow down. As is often the case with roadworks, lane alignments and surface conditions can change from day to day.

Also, just because you are comfortable travelling at a higher speed through roadworks courtesy of a perceived sense of knowing exactly what to expect, doesn’t mean the vehicles around you wont suddenly slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid something because it is drastically different to the last time they travelled through the section.

So you’ve got to slow down for a couple of hunderd meters, or even a kilometre or two. Big deal.

AussieRodney 9:57 am 18 Jul 10

+1 for the concept. Implement it & then put a police car with lights flashing out there for an hour or two each day for a few days, followed by an officer with a speed camera for a while longer. The word would get out very quickly.

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