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Are variable speed limits actually legal?

Electronic variable speed limit signs are legal and enforceable. They can be established to temporarily restrict the speed due to road works, weather, an accident, a hazard such as a slip, heavy traffic or a temporary event like a concert.

What is a variable speed limit?

A variable speed limit is a speed limit that can be changed to any multiple of 10km/h between 30km/h and 100km/h. If the sign is illuminated, the stated speed is the legal speed limit. If the sign is off, the normal signposted speed limit applies.

The Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017 has categories of speed limit.

  • The default urban speed limit and the default rural speed limit
  • a permanent speed limit
  • a holiday speed limit
  • a variable speed limit
  • a temporary speed limit
  • an emergency speed limit.

Variable speed limits may be seen on gantries, such as this one in Auckland on the approach to the Waterview tunnel.

Motorway variable speed limit sign in Auckland

Other speed limits might be marked as temporary, but using physical signs. These are not variable, they are temporary. These are also legally enforceable and you can be pulled over for speeding. In 30km/h zones, it’s easy to receive a large fine or even lose your licence.

Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

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