Australia's Northern Territory Government Trials Return To Open Speed Limit

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Australia's Northern Territory. Image used under Creative Commons from Flickr user Prince Roy

Australia's Northern Territory. Image used under Creative Commons from Flickr user Prince Roy

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Even if it weren't home to the Nürburgring Nordschleife and dozens of iconic performance cars, Germany would still be a mecca for car enthusiasts due to its selection of de-restricted Autobahn freeways. Hitting triple-figure velocities without falling foul of the law is a speed freak's dream.

That dream may now return--albeit briefly--for some Australian drivers after half a decade's absence.

Until 2006, some roads in Australia's mostly deserted Northern Territory could also make this claim, but speed limits of 130 and 110 km/h (81 and 68 mph) were applied following revelations that road deaths were three times higher in the state than elsewhere in Australia.

The Northern Territory government has announced a trial return to open speed limits on a 200 km (124 mile) section of the Stuart Highway between Barrow Creek and Alice Springs, from February 1, 2014. The government cites low traffic figures and a lack of speed-related fatalities between 2001 and 2011 as reasons to re-introduce the open limit, though existing limits will remain in place for provisional and learner license holders and heavy goods vehicles.

While Transport Minister Peter Styles has reminded motorists that open limits are not an excuse for reckless driving, some pressure groups and the Northern Territory's Automobile Association worry it will lead to an increase in road deaths. Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby told ABC, "This government will have blood on its hands, mark my words", and attacked the Country Liberal Party, responsible for the increase, for refusing to release reports that underpin the decision to remove existing speed limits.

Australia's limit-free Northern Territory was once a popular location for automakers to test their cars at high speeds and in high temperatures.

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