Safer roads, safer journeys

Column By Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

17 January 2013

For most of us the summer holidays have drawn to a close for another year. As 2013 gets underway it’s a good chance to reflect on a great milestone achieved over the break – the lowest holiday road toll since records began.

Six people were killed on our roads during the official holiday period, which ran from December 24 to January 3. Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, and a terrible loss for families and loved ones. Compared to the 2011/2012 holiday road toll of 19, it is encouraging to see such a huge drop but the low figure is nothing to be complacent about.

Many of you will have travelled away from home over the holidays, and you’ll know the stresses involved. Fatigue, time pressure, traffic jams, and distractions all play a part in accidents, especially at this time of year. While some accidents are simply a result of wrong place, wrong time, National has put in place a range of measures to encourage safer driving, improve our roads, and reduce deaths and serious injuries.

Our Safer Journeys strategy has a vision of a road system increasingly free of serious injuries and deaths by 2020. To help achieve this, we have:

  • Raised the driving age to 16.
  • Toughened the restricted licence test.
  • Introduced a zero blood-alcohol limit for young drivers.
  • Doubled the maximum penalty for drink or drugged driving causing death.
  • Introducedalcohol interlock and zero alcohollicences.
  • Introduced motorcycle safety initiatives.
  • Successfully changed the give way rule.

The Government will also be releasing the next Safer Journeys Action Plan later in the year which will set out new measures to make our roads safer.

Recent results from the New Zealand Road Assessment Programme (KiwiRAP) show a drop of more than 15 per cent in fatal and serious injury crashes on rural state highways. The proportion of our state highway classified as high risk has dropped from 7 to 4 per cent. Speed survey results for last year show the percentage of drivers travelling above the speed limit on the open road has reduced from 31 per cent to 25 per cent. This research shows the number of road deaths would fall by about 4 per cent for every1km/h reduction in average speed.

The record low holiday road toll, and another low annual toll for 2012 is great news, but we need to keep up the effort. It’s important that every road user – drivers, riders, passengers, and pedestrians – continues to play their part in keeping our roads safe.