It's been five years since the Territory's previously unrestricted highways were limited to 130km/h.
An open speed limit trial will start on part of the Northern Territory's main highway.
The Northern Territory Government will honour an election promise to return open speed limits as part of a 12-month trial kicking off in 2014. The pilot will see open speed allowed on a 200km stretch of the Stuart Highway between Barrow Creek and Alice Springs from February 1.
It's been five years since the Territory's previously unrestricted highways -- loved by car enthusiasts from other states -- were limited by the then-Labor government to 130km/h in 2007.
A change of government, with the Country Liberal Party now in power, has seen a change of attitude, with NT Transport Minister Peter Styles acknowledging that higher speeds may be safe under the right conditions.
Styles said the trial 200km of highway road selected for the trial had been identified as low-risk for crashes. "The Territory has a unique road network with a low traffic volume and this section of road has been identified as an appropriate trial section,” Styles said. “In the 10 years between 2001-2011 there wasn’t any speed related fatalities on this stretch of road."
However he cautioned that the open speed trial was not an invitation for dangerous driving, and that motorists should drive to the road conditions, their skills and the abilities of their vehicles, with learner and provisional license holders adhering to their normal restrictions.
However, while car fans may applaud the trial, it has been criticised by some of the Territory's safety and driver organisations, including the NT Police Association and the Automobile Association of the Northern Territory, who have previously said the road infrastructure is not up to the standard required for open speeds.
Road safety groups, the police union and Royal Australasian College of Surgeons will call on the commonwealth to block the Northern Territory's return to open speed limits, which experts say will increase road deaths and encourage hooning.
President of the Police Federation of Australia and NT Police Association, Vince Kelly, said it was a case of poltics being favoured over sensible policies, and called on the commonwealth to withhold road funding and force the Territory government to alter its plans. ``What they are doing is putting a legal framework in place that encourages people to act foolishly,'' Kelly said. ``It just seems to me that politics in the NT is once again being put ahead of sensible public policy.''
However, Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club NT president Peet Menzies welcomed news of the trial. ``These days you can buy a vehicle for a reasonable price that would probably do 300km/h. I dare say some people would like to come here and try that,'' he said. ``It's not as if you're driving on a southern road: it's the north and the number of cars is significantly less.''
The results of the 12-month trial -- including any increase in crashes -- will be audited before any steps are taken to expand it. Should the Territory then look at reinstating the open limit on all its highways?
Additional reporting by Amos Aikman.
This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott