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Lowering speed limits raises stress

oxley highway rider stress
Rider on the Oxley Highway

Lowering the speed limits on the Oxley Highway as proposed by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services would lead to a potentially dangerous rise in rider stress levels, according to a submission to a Senate inquiry.

Long-time motorcycle rider and flight instructor Peter Callil made his scientific submission to the Senate Committee Personal Choice and Community Impacts Inquiry earlier this year.

Unfortunately, because of the recent federal election, the committee’s inquiries were not completed. And on October 11, 2016, the Senate agreed not to re-refer this inquiry to the 45th Parliament.

What an utter waste of the public’s time, effort and money!

Peter had gained his information from years of safety research starting as a flight instructor in 1988. You can read all about it here.

His theory is based on research into stress levels by human behaviour researcher Chris Welford. It shows that people perform better when their stress level is moderate and worse when it is too low and too high.

“In a road safety context, pressure relates to speed, and performance relates to our ability to operate a vehicle safely,” Peter says.

Therefore, a rider’s performance is degraded whether they are riding too fast or slow for the conditions. That makes them more vulnerable to crashing.

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services had decided to decrease speed limits in several sections of the Oxley Highway to decrease the number of crashes.

However, it could cause greater motorist stress and actually lead to an increase in crashes.

The first speed zones were lowered near Long Flat in September. Since then, there has been a backlash from the community, businesses, politicians and riders. A petition has also gathered about 7000 signatures.


Among their concerns are that the slower speeds will lead to longer travel times, more crashes and a reduction in motorcycle tourism.

In response, the RMS has agreed to re-evaluate their plans with a decision expected before Christmas.

Meanwhile, petition organiser and local rider Ken Healey has organised a public protest rally next Saturday, November 5, 2016, to protest the speed changes.

The Save the Oxley Rally will start at two separate locations:

  • At Andrews Park on Cameron Street in Wauchope, assembling at 9am in the carpark for a 10am departure.
  • Beside the Walcha Oval in Pakington St Walcha, behind the Royal Café, assembling at 9am for a 10am departure.

Both groups are expected to arrive at Gingers Creek Roadhouse by 11.30am for the rally meeting. There is plenty off-road parking available in a grassed paddock. It is suggested riders bring a chock for their sidestands.

Planned speakers are Ken Healey, MCC of NSW chairman Christopher Burns, local business people and a local politician.

  1. We have a lot of people making laws for motorcyclists and I suspect that most of them have never even been on a motorcycle.

    In the interests of better road safety, I propose:
    1) That all laws pertaining to motorcyclists can only be passed by people who actively ride a motorcycle.
    2) All new drivers must spend at least one year actively riding a motorcycle on public roads before they can progress to a car licence (with some obvious exceptions like disabilities that prevent them from riding motorcycles).

  2. I’m all for this, I really am. Done the Oxley many times and will be there again this weekend.
    Sorry to be a tiny bit niggly, but why use a picture of a rider cornering with most of his body and half the bike leaning over the double lines? Seems just to give the wrong impression to me…

    1. Some pushbikes at the side of the road, not in photo, don’t assume you know everything the way everyone who posts does.

  3. My God, that so-called report is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Going slower increases stress indeed! I’ve been a motorcyclist for over 30 years, riding in all weathers, solo interstate touring, commuting for over 15 years, and have taught with the Road Safety Council so I’m pretty confident I know what I’m talking about. Let’s just agree that some of us simply don’t want to go slower on the Oxley and leave it at that. This sort of thing just makes us look stupid.

    1. Ride around at half the speed limit for a week, which is basically what NSW Roads is trying to do, & you’ll get the idea.
      Faster (but less pleasant) method is to tell people living from Walcha to Wauchope you want the speed limits lowered.

  4. Riding or driving below the ‘natural’ speed of the road leads to reduction in concentration, involvement & actually riding/driving. The lower speed limits relate to the lowest common denominator. The brain dead.
    In the past, roads generally (within the state max speed limit) were speed posted at the 85th percentile speed, the speed at which or below, 85% of drivers drove at.
    It was considered unrealistic to expect drivers to drive at a speed lower that they considered appropriate, no matter what the posted speed limit was.
    In the past, traffic & road safety was managed by qualified technical people in line with worlds best practice.
    Now it is managed by road safety zealots and politicians. They was zero road deaths. Great ideal, but lala land reality.
    More people die of many other causes (smoking, eating fast foods etc?) which the Govt does nothing about.
    Road safety is more about being seen to be doing something. Lower road speed seems to be the panacea the road safety zealots and politicians have chosen as it costs nothing other than replace some signs.
    And the cynical aspect is, because the speed limits are too low and not accepted by motorists, the Govt makes lots of revenue, i repeat, revenue. Does any of this revenue go back into road maintenance, fixing dangerous locations or up-skilling driver abilities?

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