Waging war on NZ’s road toll

Dominion Post Weekend, Wellington by Laura Walters 02 Dec 2017

As the road toll creeps towards a 10-year high, the Government, police and New Zealand Transport Agency are moving quickly to curb the number of deaths before the holidays.

Last month, the associate transport minister called a crisis meeting to discuss the rising number of deaths on New Zealand roads, and put in place a plan for how to curb the casualties before the holidays hit.

The road toll so far sits at 339, 42 more than last year, with still a month until the end of the year.

Two weeks ago, the Green Party’s Julie Anne Genter called representatives from police, the transport agency (NZTA) and Ministry of Transport to Wellington to figure out what changes will have the biggest impact in a short amount of time.

Some of the remedies being considered were improving dangerous intersections, and improving awareness and education around road safety.

Genter said there were a number of policies being worked on, some of which would be announced before the holidays.

A new safety campaign was the first step towards tackling the country’s “tragic” road toll, she said.

Dubbed “we want you here for christmas”, the joint police and NZTA campaign hopes its simple message gets through to motorists.

Superintendent Steve Greally and 45 police staff doubled-down on that message by operating an alcohol checkpoint on one of the country’s busiest roads, State Highway 1, north of Wellington, yesterday.

It was part of a strategy to tackle the the road toll’s four main contributors – not wearing seatbelts, impairment, speed, and distractions.

“We’re just making sure people, going into the silly season, are paying attention to these things so that they can live long meaningful lives,” Greally said.

“Our advice is, as always, don’t drink and drive. Both of those activities are great on their own but they should be kept very separate.”

Four videos will be posted on social media too over coming weeks, with police drawing attention to those contributing factors.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said New Zealand had its highest road toll since 2010 “and something has to change”.

“As minister of police, I want to ensure our police have the resources they need to help keep people safe on our roads,” Nash said.

The Government was doing its bit by increasing resources for police and looking at options to improve roads that were a high risk for fatal crashes, he said.

Nash and Genter said they hoped their support of the safety campaign would help prevent the road toll from rising any further.

The campaign focused on the idea everyone was responsible for road safety.

Last year, 100 people who died on the roads were not wearing a seatbelt – a significant rise from previous years.

Assistant commissioner for road policing Sandra Venables said road tragedies impact not only those killed or injured, but their friends and family as well.

The Government was also looking at long-term solutions to improve road safety, including taking more people out of private cars by improving rail and public transport, more rail and ship freight to reduce the number of trucks on the roads, changing speed restrictions, improving identified dangerous intersections, and continuing to raise awareness around road safety.

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