By MICK McCARTNEY
SPEED limits. When you are driving you can't avoid them and, hopefully, you obey them at all times.
But are there too many for motorists to navigate and has it become too confusing with the result that many drivers are being caught unawares?
Travelling along the Pacific Highway, on my 11km/h route from Toormina, I pass through eight different speed zones ? 50km/h, 60km/h, 100km/h, 60km/h, 70km/h, 50km/h, 40km/h, 50km/h ? and there would be people who would pass through more.
Taxi driver Bob Hutchinson spends his days and nights traversing the myriad school zones, residential zones and roadworks and asks if the zones are slowing the speedsters down.
"Does it really slow the hoons down?" he said.
"They slow down when they see a cop but once they are gone they are back to roaring up and down the street, especially along the jetty strip. They ignore the speed limits."
Mr Hutchinson said he has been driving a taxi for 20 years and remembers when it was 60km/h all through town.
Now it was no longer a simple matter of driving from A to B at a set speed and he must continually remember what speed zone he is in.
"From Red Hill to the jetty I pass through 80 (km/h), 70, 50, 30 and then 10 through the mall, back to 50, although it will soon be made 40, then 60, 40, 60, 50, 40, 50 and then 25 to the yacht club.
"Most people abide by the law but it is a trap and people do get caught out."
Sergeant John Patacko of the Coffs Harbour Highway Patrol said most people were aware of what the speed limit was when they were driving, but some were still being caught exceeding the limit.
"Some people believe they are in an 80 zone when they are driving in a 60 or 50 zone but generally people know when they are in a built-up area it's 50km/h," he said.
"When stopped a lot of people will say to you they thought they were in an 80 zone when they were in a built-up area.
"We have had to do a number of speed operations around the area to try and reduce people's speed, and of late our serious injury and fatal crashes have dropped dramatically."
Sgt Patacko said the compliance in School Zones was fairly good but they were still detecting many P-platers speeding through town.
Courier driver Peter Gough,who works for Fastway Couriers in Coffs Harbour,spends a lot of time on the road but has no problem with the many speed zones throughout the city.
"I know it is 50 or 60 through town and 80 outside and I always keep an eye out," he said.
"You have to be aware of the school zones but even though we are on a schedule we don't drive fast. I don't have an issue with the limits around town but out on the highway is another matter.
"You often don't know what the limit is on the highway because it constantly changes and it can be very confusing for locals and tourists."
But in the end it is the choice of the driver whether they want to get to their destination 10 seconds quicker (and possibly receive a ticket or have an accident) or obey the speed limit and arrive there safely knowing they have done the right thing.