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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Speed limiters coming to NZ soon?

10 Jul 2024

I've already written columns on the strange paradox that sees us driving cars which are capable of more than twice the legal speed limit.

When we're continuously told that "speed kills", why would any government in its right mind allow people to own and use cars that are capable of such ridiculously high (and illegal) speeds?

This becomes even more perplexing when you realise that substances such as cannabis are strictly illegal, even though the worst side effect of their consumption for many is "the munchies".

Allowing people to own and drive cars that can go so much faster than is legally allowed and which claim so many lives every year is not too much different to handing out loaded guns and simply telling people "don't shoot anyone, it's not allowed". Inevitably there will be those who ignore the advisories, the rules and the laws such that innocent lives will be lost.

Clearly we don't hand out guns... so why do we have cars that will do speeds that are so much higher than those allowed by law and those deemed to be safe?

Well (finally) Europe has wised-up to this paradox.

As of July 7th, all new vehicles sold in the European Union will be required to have a speed limiter fitted as standard equipment.

What took them so long and why are we here in New Zealand still handing out loaded guns to anyone over the age of 16?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favour of more "nanny state" rules and regulations but until we have some parity across the board insomuch as restrictions are proportionate to actual risks, it seems crazy to have such tough laws on things that rarely kill whilst allowing far greater and more easily mitigated risks to persist.

Of course all is not exactly as it may seem in this new EU ruling, you know that bureaucrats measure their worth by the volume and complexity of regulations they inflict on us.

The EU speed limiter isn't a "hard" limiter... it's more of an advisory capability that lets drivers know when they're breaking the maximum speed threshold via a number of feedback mechanisms, including an automatic reduction in engine power. However, if you really plant your foot you can still exceed that limit, something deemed necessary for safety reasons such as when overtaking.

The system can also be disabled at the start of any journey but it will automaticall re-activate the next time the vehicle is turned on -- ie: the default condition is on.

There's a fairly useful article on the system over on alphabet.com.

In light of this fairly lightweight approach to speed limiting one almost has to ask "why even bother?"

Anyone who wants to break the posted speed limit can still do so and I suspect that it's these folk who are the real menace to public safety. Also, given that many cars already have an advisory alarm that reminds drivers when they've exceeded a specific speed, the value of all the extra expense that the EU system involves must be questionable.

The really big question that must be on everyone's mind right now is "when will this be coming to New Zealand?"

The answer is probably "pretty soon".

Even if our lawmakers don't jump on the EU bandwagon, chances are that because we are such a small percentage of the market we'll get exactly the same cars that are made for the UK marketplace and it appears that many of those will have the system even though it's not a legal requirement there. It's just cheaper not to make special editions of vehicles for tiny markets so you can expect that speed limiters will soon be part of life for anyone who purchases a new vehicle in the next few years.

Personally, I can't wait to see whether this system actually produces any significant change to road accident and fatality statistics -- I have a feeling it won't but only time will tell.

Carpe Diem folks!

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