Open speed limit starts tomorrow


Sir – A 200km stretch of the Stuart Highway will undergo a 12 month open speed limit trial, starting tomorrow.
The stretch of road, south of Barrow Creek to just north of Alice Springs was recommended for the trial as it had no identified road geometry issues and low crash numbers.
The stretch of highway has undergone a multi-million dollar upgrade to improve safety during the trial. 2013 saw the road toll drop by nearly 25% in the Northern Territory, with 12 fewer deaths on our roads than in 2012 and the lowest since 2009.
In the 10 years between 2001-2011 there weren’t any speed related fatalities on this stretch of road. Since 2011 there have been no fatalities on this stretch of road.
The Territory Government is continually undertaking audits and assessments on the major highways of the Northern Territory.
The Territory has a unique road network with long distances and low traffic volume. With the implementation of this trial we are putting the responsibility back on motorists.
They need to be able to drive to the road conditions and their capabilities. This trial is not a licence to drive recklessly, dangerously or without due care.
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.
“Learner and provisional drivers and heavy vehicles will continue to be speed limited as they are now.
Be warned – police will be increasing their presence on this area of road. We will not tolerate reckless driving.
Peter Styles
Minister for Transport


  1. Myself and my partner drive long distances regularly for work and I am horrified that this policy is being brought in. I am genuinely concerned that this stretch of road will become too hazardous to be worth using – the thought of oncoming fatigued drivers in poorly maintained vehicles feeling like they are now entitled to drive at 160+ is just horrifying.
    Everyone in the NT seems to think they are a driving legend (while the reality is we have the worst accident stats in the country) so the idea that everyone will ‘drive responsibly’ is a sick joke.
    And even if they were half as good at driving as they think they are, its simple laws of physics that a ton of metal is less stable and takes longer to stop the faster you go. Hitting a kangaroo will go from being a hazard to being a death sentence at the speeds we are talking about.
    The claims of safety made by Minister Styles are demonstrably ridiculous – start with reading this article if you don’t believe me:
    Road safety experts the world over don’t support his policy. I just hope when there is innocent blood on the tarmac that Minister Styles has the spine to take responsibility.
    And if its one of my loved ones who gets wiped out when an oncoming 20 year old VN Commodore doing 200kph has a blowout then the NT Government can be assured I’ll be suing them into the stone age. This is no way for a modern government to behave.

  2. Well well well. An accident waiting to happen. Why ? Why would you risk this? Why would you take a risk you don’t have to take? Even if someone doesn’t die on the road, you’d have to conclude the CLP are not the brightest crayons in the box.

  3. This is crazy … just because a road has been “safe” you turn the loonies loose? WHY? Is is an attempt at The NT being innovative? If so find another way rather than giving open slather to the hoons. I would add this, if one of mine dies on that road, I will take every step to make those that made this crazy decision pay.

  4. @Mark Carter.
    Well said … I wrote my post before I read yours. But nice to see that my thought echo yours.

  5. Just one more thought, can anyone think of a sane or valid reason for doing this? It seems clear to me that it will fail, but some people will have to die to get it rescinded.

  6. The Road houses and garages will benefit – as more speed means more fuel used.
    Also, everyone from down South and elsewhere will drive 1,000s of klms at 110 klm/hr for the privilege of driving between Alice Springs and Barrow Ck.

  7. We were in Alice Springs for the weekend en route home from Adelaide. Having lived in the Territory all my life, open limits are nothing new.
    The new open limit stretch was a breath of fresh air after the long, boring 110 limit through SA. We sat on 150km comfortably, didn’t witness any “idiots”, accidents or police.
    The only recommendation I would strongly make to the Government, the sides of the Stuart Highway need to be slashed 3-4m in on both sides – as the original CLP Government use to do. This gives drivers half a chance (regardless of speed) to see various wildlife up ahead. Currently you don’t see them until they are on the bitumen, with some of the vegetation up to a foot high to the edge of the road. The various sized anthills, especially at night, are very distracting looking like possible roos and alike.
    I did suggest this to a Member, they said it was due to recent rains. Crap. I have been driving the highway Alice to Darwin regularly over the last five years, it’s been the same.
    If we’re serious about the highways, self drive tourism and safety, let’s get slashing.

  8. Dallas @1 posted Feb 3rd is correct, slashing a wide strip on each side of the road will greatly increase safety.
    I understand Marks @8 posted Jan 31st point of view. Old vehicles in poor repair will always be a hazard, no matter which speed they are being driven at.
    I have been in the Territory since 1997 and lasted a decade here driving on roads with no speed limit until limits were enforced and I survived.
    It is a fact that most deaths in the NT are attributed to fatigue, alcohol, lack of wearing seat belts and vehicles which are in poor repair and or overcrowded. Speed was and still is way down the list.
    When I was traveling on open speed roads I was mainly doing 160km/h. Very occasionally would I be passed meaning that most people drove at a limit which they determined was safe.
    Mark, there is nothing to stop a car doing 200km/h on any road, it’s just illegal but it still wouldn’t stop them.
    Fatigue is far more likely to set in whilst doing 110km/h on a long straight stretch of road than doing 160 on the same road as when doing 160 I guarantee you are far more alert whilst driving.
    As for driving at night doing these speeds, no way. Open speed is only safe during day time hours.
    At dawn, dusk and even night time high speed would be an absolute danger to all concerned. Too many animals roaming and not a lot of fencing! I hit a horse a few years ago now around dusk doing about 90. Came out from behind a tree and did not see it at all until it was right in front of me.
    I now have FLIR thermal imaging fitted to my vehicle which works exceptionally well. Coming back from Adelaide last year whilst sitting on about 100 in the middle of the night FLIR picked up three cows on the road well before I could visually see them. Dark cows are very hard to see at night but they give out a bucket load of heat.
    It all comes down to driving with common sense and unfortunately it does not matter if there is a speed limit or not common sense is not always there. I would dare say that traveling a few of the speed limited and heavily policed eastern seaboard highways is and always will be far more dangerous than our newly open speed stretch of road.


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