Wheels magazine has driven from Melbourne to Sydney at speeds up to 130km/h in the latest episode of its campaign to have Australia’s highway speed limits raised.
The magazine recruited British motoring journalist Ben Oliver for the drive, aiming to demonstrate that travelling at higher speeds on good quality roads can be completed safely and has the potential to lower the road toll.
Wheels claims raising the limit to 130km/h on Australia’s best highways would help reduce fatigue and mean drivers spent less time on the road, thereby reducing their chances of being involved in a crash.
Oliver’s story features on the cover of the latest edition of the magazine, boasting: “We drove Melbourne to Sydney at 130km/h, didn’t die and didn’t get booked”.
For the purpose of the story, Oliver drove at the signposted speed limit at all times except in 110km/h zones where he travelled at 130km/h, as indicated by the speedometer in his Volvo S60 Polestar test car. He slowed to the speed limit for fixed speed cameras to avoid being automatically snapped.
Oliver completed the circa-776km journey along the Hume Highway in six hours and 23 minutes; an hour and 11 minutes faster than a control car that stuck to the speed limit at all times.
Oliver, who regularly drives legally at higher speeds in Europe, was the first to admit that a blanket 130km/h limit for the Hume Highway was not the answer.
“There was nothing the Volvo couldn’t handle with 95 per cent of its ability in reserve, but a newly qualified driver in a worn-out car in the dark and rain might get into trouble sooner at these speeds,” Oliver writes. “A variable limit would seem right…”
But “the greatest danger”, according to Oliver, is the fact that “on those laser-straight, perfectly surfaced stretches of the Hume, even 130km/h felt safe enough to be dull”.
“I marvelled at the staggering wrong-headedness of the constant roadside signs warning drivers of the dangers of fatigue when an unnecessarily low limit forces them to remain behind the wheel for longer.”
Failing to attract the attention of the boys in blue and having saved more than an hour, Oliver concluded, “Your speed limit is nuts”.
While not planning to penalise Oliver despite his admission of guilt, NSW Police has condemned the action as “reckless”.
“This stunt has potentially endangered other people’s lives,” NSW Police commander of traffic and highway patrol John Hartley told News Limited. “Speed is still one of the biggest killers on our roads.
“It’s a deliberately reckless action. We take a dim view of what is clearly a stunt. It sends a bad message to other drivers and could have had tragic consequences.”
Wheels’ online petition to increase the limit to 130km/h has attracted more than 11,000 signatures on its way to its target of 15,000.