Low traffic: Peter Styles said there were no speeding deaths on the highway for 10 years. Photo: David McCowen Peter and Chris Jackson with their Aston Martin V8 Vantage on the Stuart Highway. Photo: David McCowen
Northern Territory police have hit out at drivers who exceeded 200km/h during the first hours of a trial of open speed limits.
The territory has removed speed limits on a stretch of the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs as part of a 12-month study. The road was not subject to speed limits until 2007, when 130km/h maximums were introduced.
Northern Territory Transport Minister Peter Styles said he had not seen any irresponsible drivers on the highway but was disappointed when told people had driven at more than 250km/h on public roads.
”This is a long section of road with very low traffic volumes,” he said.
”This road is not an autobahn. If people want to do those speeds, then I suggest they go to Germany.”
Mr Styles said the road was selected for a trial without speed limits because it ”has not had speed-related deaths on it for a 10-year period”.
Assistant Commissioner Jamie Chalker, of Northern Territory police, said increased patrols would operate in the trial zone.
”We will be encouraging people to drive safely, to drive to the conditions,” he said. ”Don’t try to push the boundaries … we will not accept stupidity on our road. Please do not come here to treat this as a racetrack. Don’t treat this as a place to drive recklessly.”
Critics of the trial, including the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Automobile Association, say it increases risk and will threaten life on the roads.
Fairfax Media spotted several high-performance machines on the stretch of road at the start of the trial, including a classic Ferrari F355, a supercharged Chrysler coupe and a 1000cc Yamaha superbike.
Dozens of motorists hit a 200-kilometre section of the road in the first hours of the trial on Saturday, including Aston Martin owners Peter and Chris Jackson.
”It was beautiful,” Mr Jackson said. ”The car was built for it so I pushed it over 250km/h. I’ll have to go home and wash the bugs off it now.”
Alice Springs residents have been split by the decision to trial open speed limits.
Gary Partridge used to work in roadhouses in the bush and said it was ”about bloody time” the government reinstated open limits.
”No one really speeds on that road anyway, most people do 130 or 140km/h,” he said.
Other residents said they appreciated being given the opportunity to decide what was responsible on the road.
But many do not support the trial, including Rob Manning, a travelling salesman who spends many hours on outback roads.
”I used to drive on that road when it was on an open speed limit … many times over 200km/h,” he said. ”But I don’t agree with it – 130km/h is enough.”
Richard Giltrap drives 50-metre-long triple road trains out of Alice Springs, often having to avoid ”idiots on the road”.
”They overtake when it is unsafe all the time,” he said. ”[The trial] shouldn’t happen, shouldn’t be allowed … There will be one accident and that will be the end of [it].”
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