The Northern Territory government has today announced a trial of open speed limits on a section of the Stuart Highway, with a view to a permanent reintroduction.
In keeping with its election promise, the NT government will implement the trial on a 200km stretch of National Highway 87 between Barrow Creek and Alice Springs, beginning February 1 next year.
Transport Minister Peter Styles said the NT government - which was always against the scrapping of open speed limits while in opposition - was committed to undertaking an evidence-based trial before deciding if a return to open speed limits would be permanent, or implemented on other roads.
“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,” Mr Styles said.
“In the ten years between 2001 and 2011, there wasn’t any speed related fatalities on this stretch of road. We are bringing responsibility back to motorists; they need to be able to drive to the road conditions and their capabilities.”
Mr Styles reminded motorists that the trial was not an excuse for reckless or dangerous driving, and that existing speed limits would still be enforced for provisional and learner licence holders along with heavy vehicle operators.
“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,” Mr Styles said.
The Northern Territory’s peak motoring body, the AANT, has previously said that it will not support a return to open speed limits until road conditions improve. In a safety audit conducted earlier this year, 61 percent of the Territory’s highways received only a 1- or 2-star safety rating.
“Current funding is barely adequate to maintain the existing NT National Highway network, let alone apply the necessary treatments needed to improve road safety,” AANT’s General Manager Edon Bell said in a statement earlier this year.
“This is not the time to be considering increases in speed limits on our National Highways.”
The NT government is also implementing a new policy for setting speed limits near road houses on major roads, including the Stuart, Barkley and Victoria Highways, depending on visibility, distance from the road and pedestrian activity.