As expected, speed limits were removed from a further 60km of the Stuart Highway this week, creating a continuous open zone of 336km from the north of Alice Springs to the Ali Curung rail overpass (excusing roadhouses and small communities).
The Country Liberals government that holds power says it wants this to go further, to Tennant Creek and onto Katherine. Open speed limit funding in Budget 2016 includes an additional $1 million for the next 17km section.
The government said it was taking the evidence-based approach in extending Australia’s only derestricted road network, which takes advantage of the long, straight and uncluttered highway that carves a path through the flat desert landscape.
“The Country Liberals Government is making the drive north from Alice Springs easier by taking an evidence-based approach to speed limits on the Northern Territory’s major highways,” said its press release.
“Open speed limits are on sections of the Territory’s unique road network with long distances between towns and low traffic volumes, but the Government expects people to drive to the road conditions, safely and within their capabilities.
“This is not a licence to drive recklessly; it’s about supporting individuals to make their own decision to drive responsibly.”
On his Facebook page, NT chief minister Adam Giles said: “Territorians have always acted sensibly in open speed limit zones, with 85 per cent of drivers travelling between 133-139km/h; and most driving to the conditions”.
Of the 11 crashes that occurred during the 2014 year long trial period on stretches of the Stuart Hwy, there were no fatalities. And of the one serious injury reported, alcohol and not wearing a seatbelt were factors, he said.
Of course, being politics, the Country Liberals had a dig at their opposition, contending:
“Make no mistake, if Labor is elected on August 27, Labor will remove open speed limits and slow down Territory road transport, just as they would slow down the economy.”
Giles said a re-elected Country Liberals Government would fund road improvements for additional sections, including 75.1km between Mataranka and Larrimah and 47.5km between Daly Waters and Dunmurra.
Naturally, as you can read here, we at CarAdvice are in favour of a more considered speed policy. Statistics that correlate higher (but sensible) speed limits than our 110km/h with reduced road tolls make for interesting reading.