A 40km/hr school zone is a designated area around a school where motorists are legally required to slow down to 40km/hr.

School zoneDistinctive flashing lights and the orange number 40 set in a circle of red light against a black background are used to warn motorists of school children arriving and leaving the school grounds and to advise them that they are required to slow down to 40km/hr.

How did 40km/hr school zones come about?

In 2000, the Christchurch City Council and Transit New Zealand introduced school zones at five Christchurch schools on a two-year trial. The signs have been so successful there are now 40km/hr school zones outside schools throughout the country. There is an on-going programme of installation outside Christchurch schools where other traffic calming measures are not considered appropriate or where they would not be as effective.


Where are 40km/hr school zone signs positioned?

The 40km/hr flashing signs are positioned 150-200m on either side of the school road crossing as you approach the school. The signs are electronically controlled by a timer located in the school and operate at the beginning and end of the school day. Static signs are also located on intersection roads and within the school zone. Extra signs, such as school patrol signs, may also be used.


What are the benefits of a 40km/hr school zone?

School zones:

  • Reduce motorists' speed when children are arriving and leaving school.
  • Raise motorists' awareness of schools and school crossings.
  • Improve safety of school children.
  • Increase the community's confidence about children's safety on the road outside the school.
  • Reinforce the motorists' awareness of the surrounding road environment.

40km/hr school zones are most effective where:

  • The road environment is busy and has a high number of cyclists and pedestrians; or has poor visibility for motorists approaching a school
  • The traffic has a number of large vehicles; or is often continuous; or is travelling at speeds above safe stopping distances
  • The road has motorists who may not be aware of the presence of the school because it is an arterial road; or has a history of speed related crashes; or has a high probability of collisions.

How are schools selected for 40km/hr school zones?

Every road and street adjoining every school in Christchurch has been assessed and prioritised for a 40km/hr school zone using the following criteria:

  • Motor vehicle operating speeds. That is the 85th percentile speed of vehicles at the school crossing at morning and afternoon peak periods (when a school zone would normally operate).
  • Road environment such as approach visibility, distractions, and traffic generated by land use other than the school.
  • Road status - whether the road is a local, collector, minor or major arterial road.
  • Kerbside activity - the likelihood of drivers being distracted and children walking out from behind parked vehicles.
  • Motor vehicle volume which determines the relative difficulty in gap selection for pedestrians crossing the road and the ease of operation for a school patrol.
  • Level of pedestrian crossing activity. A minimum of 50 child pedestrian movements within a 30 minute period is required to meet the warrant for a 40km/hr school zone.
  • Number of heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses, which may intimidate child pedestrians.
  • Number of cyclists. Children tend to bunch when cycling as a group, and may make sudden, unexpected manoeuvres.
  • Level of community interest - the level of concern expressed by a school community about the safety of children on the roads outside the school.

Because school roles and road environments change, schools can request that their roads be reassessed. This may result in changes to a school's priority for a 40km/hr school zone.


What is the process for getting a 40km/hr school zone?

When a school is next in priority order for a 40km/hr school zone, the school is informed and the Board of Trustees is requested to make a formal application supporting the installation of signs. This application and a technical assessment of the roads around the schools are presented to the Council to formally resolve to install a 40km/hr school zone and allocate funding. The application must be supported by the NZ Transport Agency and the New Zealand Police. Other stakeholders that could be impacted by the zone are informed of the application. Any concerns raised through community consultation must be resolved before a 40km/hr school zone can be granted. When the application has met all the conditions the 40km/hr school zone is installed and the school is authorised by Council to operate it.