Sonia Hornery General News

RMS completed a Speed zone review for Newcastle Road from Bennet St, Hamilton to 460m west of Lake Rd, Wallsend. The total length under review was 8.5km. This section of road was identified as a priority for review by the Centre for Road Safety and a number of members of the community had raised concerns about this road. The speed zone review was conducted in accordance with criteria described the NSW Speed Zoning Guidelines which are available on the RMS website.

The key reasons for the change include:

  • This is section of road has varying road conditions with areas of higher concentration of residential and commercial development that best matches the criteria for a 60km zone.
  • There have been over 430 crashes in the last 5 years, with 314 casualties. This rate is well over the typical crash rate for this type of road – approximately 5 times the typical rate. The high number of intersections and driveways adds to this risk.
  • The road is undulating in some sections such as Longworth Avenue, just west of Croudace Street (HW23) and on the Donald Street section with a bridge road over rail. In these sections sight distances could be considered as substandard and better match the environment for a 60km zone.

It should be noted that during peak times traffic speeds are expected to be lower than the sign posted speed limit due to high traffic volumes. Council and Police have indicated their support for the change, and the 60km speed zoning is in line speed zone changes on similar roads within the region such as Pacific Highway Highfields to Merewether (70km/h reduced to 60km/h and 80km/h reduced to 70km/h), and Industrial Drive Mayfield West to Carrington (70km/h reduced to 60km/h).

In terms of your questions regarding the proportion of crashes involving speed, I can advise the following.

  • In the Hunter region approximately 40% of crashes have speed as a contributing factor.
  • It should also be noted that there are typically a number of factors contributing to a single crash – these can include sight distance, turning movements, time of day, weather conditions and factors related to road geometry and condition.

For the length of road on Thomas St, Newcastle and Griffiths Rds, speeding was considered a factor in 19 (4.4%) of the crashes. However typically where speed is considered a factor in a high percentage of crashes it is seen as an enforcement issue. Where there are high crash rates but low speeding rates it is considered an indication that the speed zone is too high for the road function and conditions.

In addition I can advise that there was a reasonable spread of crashes across the time of day with about 50% during morning and afternoon peaks and about 50% outside of peak periods. Crash rates were also spread reasonably evenly across the week with Thursdays having the highest number (approx. 18%) and Saturdays and Sundays having around 10% of crashes per day. Weekends experience a more even spread of traffic through the day and lower peaks. The data on time of day and day of the week, suggest that congestion is not likely to be a major factor in crashes.

Reducing speed zones also reduces the severity of some crash types which can reduce the rate of injuries. There is a direct correlation between the speed of impact and the severity of crashes, and the Safe Systems approach to road safety used in NSW (based on International practice) supports using speed zoning in high crash areas to reduce injuries. In particular some crash types such as intersection crashes, rear end, straight off-road and hit pedestrian crashes will see improved injury rates with reduced speed zones.