Eyes on the road and the speed limit: Back to school brings road peril

Not paying attention to speed limits puts everyone at risk.

Not paying attention to speed limits puts everyone at risk. Photo: AAP

Farewell sleep-ins, beach days and homework-free nights: Aussie kids are heading back to school this month, but inattentive drivers will be putting them at risk.

AAMI research shows a third of Aussie drivers admit to speeding through a school zone because they didn’t notice the signs.

There appears to be a lack of education around school zones, with almost a third of drivers admitting to being confused about school zones, including speed limits, times and signs.

The behaviour is risky; one in 20 drivers have been involved in a car accident or near-miss around a school zone.

Although drivers are pleading confusion and ignorance, AAMI motor claims manager Leah James said there is “absolutely no excuse” for speeding through school zones since reduced speed limits have been in place for more than two decades.

“A pedestrian crossing the road has an 87 per cent chance of survival when hit by a vehicle travelling at 40km/h or less. This drops dramatically when the speed is higher,” she said.

“School-aged children, particularly those starting Prep or under 10 years of age, have limited road safety experience and can behave unpredictably.

“The onus is on us as adults to protect their lives and ensure they can get to and from school safely every day.”

AAMI’s analysis of more than 350,000 motor insurance claims across the country in the past financial year found Fridays were the worst day of the week for crashes, while afternoons between 1pm and 4.30pm during school pickup proved to be the most dangerous time.

Queensland students already started school last week, while students in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT will begin between January 29 and 31.

New South Wales and Tasmanian students have a little more left of their break, as their school year will start between February 1 and 8.

So with more kids set to be around certain roads in the coming weeks, now might be a good time for a refresher on your state or territory’s school zone speed limits.


In most cases, the speed limit during school speed zone times is:

  • 40km/h (when the original speed limit is less than 80km/h)
  • 60km/h (when the original speed limit is 80km/h or higher).

The speed limit and operating times will be clearly displayed on signs around the school zone.

Some speed limits are permanent, and some are variable.

The variable limits may only apply during school drop-off/pick-up hours on weekdays during the state’s school terms, except for public holidays.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, 40km/h school zones are in force on all school days, excluding weekends, public holidays and public school holidays.

Most school zones operate during standard school drop-off/pick-up hours, but there are some non-standard school zone times in the state which can be identified by red or orange school zone signs, which have the relevant times on them.

The NSW government is also installing High Pedestrian Activity Area (HPAA) speed zones of 30km/h to improve safety.

So far, the Manly HPAA has several school zones within the 30km/h zones which also operate at the reduced limit.

South Australia

In this state, 25km/h speed limits apply when children are present within school zones, at children’s crossings when the lights are flashing, and when passing a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.

School zones are signed and often with zigzag lines marked on the road to let you know when you are approaching a school zone.


The most common school zone speed limit is 40km/h, but the following speed limits apply in school zones:

  • 40km/h on roads where the normal speed limit is 50/60/70km/h
  • 60km/h on roads where the normal speed limit is 80km/h or above.

The school zone times for each school are listed on the school zone sign, but are generally standard drop-off/pick-up times.

If a school zone operates outside of the standard times, there will be flashing light school sign to let you know.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, you must drive at 40km/h or less in a school zone.

This speed limit only applies on school days, and during the times shown on the sign.

Western Australia

All school zones have a posted speed limit of 40 km/h, except for roads that already have an even lower speed limit.

The speed limit applies during standard drop-off/pick-up times, which vary slightly depending on location but should be posted on the speed limit sign.


In Tasmania, a 40km/h speed limit is applied at schools during drop-off/pick-up times.

This also applies within 50 metres of a school bus which has flashing warning lights.


Vehicles travelling in a school zone in the ACT must not exceed 40km/h between 8am and 4pm weekdays during school terms.

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