How many motorcycle riders will be heading to the Northern Territory to try out the unlimited speed limit on a 336km section of the Stuart Highway?
The NT government has decided to permanently allow motorists to choose their own speed on a long section of the Stuart Highway after a successful 18-month evidence-based trial.
Advocates of increasing the speed limit on some highways say motorists are safer because they focus more when they are driving faster and they have also provided scientific evidence to prove their case.
Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles says their trial report confirms that open speed limits reduce the number of accidents along the trial section of the Stuart Highway when compared with a 130km/h posting previously in place.
The NT dropped open speed limits on some highways in 2006 to 130km/h, but instead of accidents reducing, they increased. In fact, 307 died in the NT over the next six years, 15 more than in the previous six years.
So the government trialled open limits again.
Now this must surely be the proof that open speed limits work and motorists aren’t so stupid as to consistently ride or drive outside their comfort zone.
In fact, the traffic counter data showed there was only a small increase in driver speed in the trial sections, with 85% of drivers travelling 133-139km/h.
That proves the old theory of the 85 percentile – that is, that 85% of motorists choose the safest speed.
In fact, the only drawback in allowing faster speed limits on certain open highways is that fuel economy increases substantially. The optimum speed for fuel economy on most motorcycles is about 80-km/h, depending on the aero of the bike.
Now it’s time some of the other states started looking at increasing highway speeds.
If you’d like to try the NT’s open speed limits on your new Kawasaki H2 supercharged sports bike or ageing Hayabusa, be aware that the derestricted zone is only on 336km of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and the Ali Curung rail overpass.
I’ve ridden the Stuart Highway before and it provides plenty of vision, but even at 130km/h you have to watch out for emus running out from behind saltbushes close to the road.
The surface was also fairly bumpy and the big old Harley Ultra I was riding two-up started bottoming out on some of the bigger lumps. However, the government has spent $4.4 million upgrading the Stuart Highway to suit higher speeds, so hopefully it’s much better now. The government has also allocated another $2.5 million for upgrades including clearing vegetation from the edge of the highway, widening curves and improving the marking and signage.