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by Tim Beissmann

The Northern Territory Government will reintroduce open speed limits on a stretch of the Stuart Highway as part of a 12-month trial program beginning next year.

A 200km section of the highway between Barrow Creek and Alice Springs will be trialled without speed limits for one year from February 1, 2014.

Delivering on an election commitment, NT Transport Minister Peter Styles said the stretch of road selected for the trial had no identified road geometry issues and low crash numbers.

“The Territory has a unique road network with a low traffic volume and this section of road has been identified as an appropriate trial section,” Styles said.

“In the 10 years between 2001-2011 there wasn’t any speed related fatalities on this stretch of road.”


The NT’s highways were restricted to a maximum of 130km/h in 2007 by the then Labor Government. Styles insisted the return to open speed limits was not a licence to drive recklessly or dangerously, and said the government was bringing responsibility back to motorists to drive to the road conditions and their abilities.

“Open speed limits mean driving to the road conditions – everyone should drive within their own capabilities, the condition of the road, prevailing weather conditions and the standard of their vehicle,” he said.

“Learner and provisional drivers and heavy vehicles will continue to be speed limited as they are now.

Styles warned police would continue to prosecute dangerous drivers and would increase the enforcement of drink driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts.

The announcement has drawn criticism from a number of the NT’s road and safety authorities.

The Automobile Association of the Northern Territory told ABC Online the quality of the roads was not suitable for open speed limits, while the NT Police Association says it does not support the decision, claiming it appears to ignore expert advice.

Do you think the NT Government should reinstate open speed limits on its highways? Let us know in the comments section below.