It has been a terrible time on our roads recently. Fourteen people died in the space of a week on our roads and the individual stories are heartbreaking:

Police said a 56-year-old woman, 60-year-old man and a five-year-old boy who were travelling in a separate car also died.

Those injured include a 10-month old baby who was flown to Starship Hospital in Auckland overnight in a critical condition.

Two girls aged 2 and 17, and a woman aged 66, all remained in Rotorua Hospital in a stable condition.

While the past week is hopefully a blip, the longer-run statistics of the past few years tell an incredibly sobering story. While the road toll halved between 2001 and 2013, since then it has increased significantly – as illustrated in a recent post by Sam Warburton:

This increase is occurring at a faster rate than population growth, or the growth in total vehicle travel. Another article by Sam highlights this point:

The fatality rate (deaths per kilometre driven across New Zealand) of car occupants is 41% higher in 2017 than it was in 2013.

Another way of looking at this is that, while New Zealand is driving 15% more as a country than in 2013, deaths are up 60%.

Had we kept fatality rates at 2013 levels, there would be about 80 fewer deaths than we expect there to be in 2017, and over 110 fewer since the end of 2013.

These changes are, in technical terms, statistically significant. We can have greater than 99% confidence that the road toll is up.

This increase in the road toll is a tragedy, particularly as since the mid-1970s we have been incredibly successful in reducing the road toll, despite massive increases in population and total travel. In short, what previously worked is clearly no longer working. Improvements in vehicle safety, education, enforcement and safe infrastructure improvements led to a massive decline in the “fatality rate” over this time. There’s some good historic data on the Ministry of Transport’s website which highlights how successful these efforts were, until recently:

The estimated economic impact of crashes on our roads in 2015 was a staggering $3.8 billion and with volumes having increased since then, it’s likely to be even higher now. With the cost of congestion in Auckland being around $1 billion a year – and most of the country’s congestion being in Auckland – it is clear the economic impact of crashes is much bigger than the cost of congestion.

So what can be done about this? Over the past couple of weeks there has been a terrible lack of accountability from the Police and NZTA, essentially shrugging their shoulders or (inaccurately) blaming increasing travel for what has happened in the past few years.

Yet stories are starting to emerge that indicates deeper problems. This recent one from RNZ highlighted a pathetic lack of progress on installing speed cameras:

Police celebrated the installation of the new network of second-generation digital speed cameras in 2014, saying switching on the first of the cameras in July that year was an “important milestone in our efforts to reduce deaths and injuries on the country’s roads”.

At the time police said 56 cameras were planned for the country and would be installed by the end of 2015.

But when the last of the old network of wet-film cameras was decommissioned in March last year only 12 cameras had been installed and much of the country – including the entire South Island – was without fixed speed camera coverage.

“We have 18 cameras operating in total, including four at Waterview [Auckland], covering four districts. The other eight districts do not have static safe speed cameras,” police said in response to RNZ questions yesterday.

The police website states the link between speed cameras and reducing speed was well documented.

But despite “research clearly show[ing] that safety cameras change driver behaviour and have a positive road safety impact”, most of the country had been without fixed cameras as road tolls rose.

In a second article by Sam Warburton, he highlights that the site of on of the horrific crashes last week had already been identified as needing improvement but it’s still waiting on funding.

Safety is (supposedly) one of the Government’s top transport priorities, in the Government Policy Statement it is one of the top 3 priorities alongside supporting economic growth and value for money. However, there is little evidence that in reality safety is a high priority. This is backed up by the NZTAs own actions, for example in this article from Tauranga, they effectively state that the safety of an intersection comes second to moving trucks to the port.

Mark Haseley from the New Zealand Transport Agency said the pedestrian and cycle crossing was the result of decisions made two to three years ago. It was about economic productivity and the efficient flow of freight to the port. There was not much of an emphasis on cycling and walking.

However, he assured Ms Hughes that “the door is still open to these ideas” as long as it made sense and stacked up economically.

As non-motorist noted on twitter, even the NZTAs own cars appear to show this as a Venn diagram.

The NZTA aren’t alone though, we’ve heard of many similar stories just like the one originating agencies like Auckland Transport too.

We will have a far stronger focus on safety in the coming weeks and months to force some change because what’s happening simply isn’t good enough. We’ll work through the details of exactly what needs to change, but some initial thoughts are:

  • Formally adopting “Vision Zero” as a guiding strategy, not accepting any deaths
  • Reducing speed limits in high risk areas and on most urban streets
  • Re-focusing infrastructure investment away from a very small number of incredibly expensive motorway extensions and towards improving safety through median barriers and other improvements across many more locations.
  • Changing the economic evaluation manual so that high priority safety projects are able to occur, even if they create traffic delays
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126 comments

  1. The only way to make a serious impact on road safety is education. It is far too easy for young kids to get a license with next to no real road skills. Make the skills and knowledge necessary to acquire a license (with mandatory professional instruction) of a high enough standard so drivers respect the privilege of using and sharing the road with others.

    1. “” so drivers respect the privilege of using and sharing “” – just replace ‘drivers’ with ‘teenagers’ and you will see how improbable your suggestion is.

      Young people have accidents not because they lack driving skill but because they don’t think about consequences and are more concerned about image than mortal risk.

      Is there evidence that ‘mandatory professional instruction’ actually reduces road toll – I’m suspicious that it is just another means of keeping the poor off our roads and of course it is the poor who most need vehicles to be able to do shift work as cleaners, labourers and fast food employees.

      I worry more about the old driving than the young – thanks heavens for my goldcard.

    2. “the only way” – no. Design, regulation, enforcement, culture, re-allocation of road space to modes that don’t take victims.

    3. No Shard, your ‘only way’ is exactly what we have now and its failing. No point in asking people in absurdly overpowered wrecking machines to tone it down a little on roads and streets designed like race tracks. Doesn’t work, never has anywhere.

      Got to design like people aren’t perfect, cos, you know, they aren’t.

    4. “It is far too easy for young kids to get a license with next to no real road skills.”
      You obviously haven’t tried to get a license recently. My two teenagers have recently got their licenses and it was far from easy.

      1. Yes. And to some extent, almost impossible without parental help. Luckily some low-decile schools have learn-to-drive programmes.

      2. Interesting – it was fairly easy to get a license (although not as easy as when I was a kid) ten years ago when my daughters took their tests but it was much harder when my son took his about 2 years ago.

        They made the test much harder but accidents have increased.

        The stats need to be investigated: what are the relationships with experience, age, tourism, learning in another country (as my wife and I did), gender, age and type of vehicle and even as per the radio this morning – does more rain cause more accidents?

        Without any evidence to support it I would spend more on dividing barriers and be much harder on young drivers – they should carry a ‘P’ plate indicating probationer and be told they will be selectively stopped at random. No need to increase fines just increase detection of driving after 10pm, driving with passengers, zero alcohol, no warnings for speeding, etc. Get young drivers paranoid and maybe the habits will stick for the rest of their lives.

        1. >They made the test much harder but accidents have increased.

          The NZTA site shows that there has been an increase of about 5 billion km travelled per year since 2013.

          The *rate* per unit is what matters (such as deaths per billion km travelled).

          If the population increases and there are more cars, drivers, and km travelled then we might also expect the actual number of deaths to rise, even if the roads are safer per km.

  2. I’m going to say: wet winter. Weather has been atrocious over the whole country for the last few months. Wet roads and people following too closely for the conditions. That’s going to skew the statistics, surely?

    But if we’re going to be asking NZTA for anything, I’d say: forget the big Ronnies, just give us passing lanes. I find it incredible that on the road from Wellington to Palmerston North (at least on the big bypass route that everyone uses, about 80km long) there is not a single passing lane that I can recall. You get one person driving at 80kph and that condemns the entire line of traffic to do the same, and then people do silly things. I’d say, roads would be safer if you knew you could overtake safely every 10km or so.

    1. +1, one thing I noticed driving in rural Victoria and NSW it didn’t matter how quite the highway was, if the road was winding there were passing lanes every 10 or so kms.

      Another road like you describe is SH27 through Matamata. The road is quite straight so it appears as though a decision has been made that there are plenty of passing opportunities anyway. However, traffic volumes on this road means passing is often no possible even if you are on a reasonably long straight.

        1. Agree. If we didn’t have passing lanes we would not have any accidents in passing lanes, but we may well have more accidents elsewhere as a result of frustrated overtaking.

          If we build more passing lanes it is possible we will have less accidents at the end passing lanes as people take less risks knowing there is another one soon. I would suggest you are over simplifying things.

        2. Good point, Royce. Some commenters here want more passing lanes. Fine. But more passing lanes without other measures actually just feeds the rushing mentality.

          1. Passing lanes make for safer roads, at much less cost than entire 4 laying highways. Personally, for my tax dollars, I’d prefer the government (whoever Winnie chooses) to build more passing lanes first.

            There is always going to be a rushing mentality – especially as we have quite a low speed limit compared to many countries – but speed does not necessarily mean bad. Driving on the autobahns in Germany was fun, but terrifying – much higher speeds, but people in the main doing very clever careful driving, even cruising at 160km.

          2. Comparing with places like Germany is fraught with problems. I found German drivers to be much better and more aware. Also, their roads are built properly, and in general, cars newer and better maintained. Not all Germans stick to the rules, but most of them do, and understand that general adherence to the rules is translated to a better safety situation for all.

            Most NZ roads look OK, but in reality when you look at them their spec often seems like it was more about not spending money and doing the minimum that could be got away with. Also, NZ doesn’t seem to care about fixing roads or infrastructure until it becomes a “problem”.

  3. We need to Focus on Humans for our urban design.
    There needs to be a change in our thinking about traffic as the the focus but on the movement of people and their interactions.
    Sustainable Safety has 5 basics:
    A 3 types of roads.
    1 High traffic volumes through roads
    2 Local roads where journeys end
    3 Links between 1 and 2
    B Homogeneity of users, either big differences in size or speed need to be separated. No separation then slow speed for all.
    C Roads designed so that users know intuitively which type of road they are on, (even 6 year olds)
    D Humans are fallible, they make mistakes, so the environment needs to be designed to minimize those mistakes.
    E Humans are to be educated to remain safe in these environments, but we need to recognise that children are not responsible for their own safety. We need to design the streets that are on their way to school and where they live so that they have the best chance of remaining safe. Speed is one of the main factors in this.

    We need to see the motor vehicle as a guest on the streets where we live. Those where the journeys by motor vehicle end. Rat runs need to be a thing of the past. But design and education is the way to get there.

  4. It would be good to see proper trend & stats analysis of the road toll/serious injury toll over at least the last 15 years.
    Broken into (in no particular order):
    -mode of transport (car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian)
    -location (city, town, countryside)
    -type of road
    -posted speed limit
    -cause (primary and secondary)
    -sex/age of driver
    -number of people in vehicles
    -number of vehicles involved
    -time of day
    -time of year
    -weather conditions
    -???

    Without this it is just a sad number. And while the focus on speed makes sense as it is easy to measure and therefore police, the real cause is likely to come down to driver behavour (both the driver(s) involved in the crash or other road users).

    1. I agree with you that we need to get this information.

      To jump the gun and think ” the real cause is likely to come down to driver behavour” is showing the same error in thinking that Shard showed above. No, there are too many other factors. The reason it’s worth bothering to point this out, is that putting it down to driver behaviour avoids the hard re-prioritisation and re-allocation decisions that actually have to be made.

      Let’s look at how countries that have reduced their road fatality rates from some of the worst in the world to some of the best – like The Netherlands – and how they achieved this.

      It wasn’t driver education.

      1. Yes we do need to learn from other countries. Remember the answer in Netherlands is not likely to work here – about all we have in common is Zealand.
        By driver behaviour I include the decision not to drive everywhere. But we do need to be realistic. In every crash a decision or multiple decisions by many parties led to the result.
        Better lane segregation, more passing lanes, allowing people to “speed” to pass, slower drivers allowing people to pass, people being patient, taking breaks, not drinking or using phones, simply driving or riding to the conditions and your ability are all decisions.

        1. We have a lot in common with the Netherlands of the 1970s. Overblown roads full of cars with a high traffic crash rate and reducing cycling and walking rates.

          Plus both Auckland and New Zealand are populated by human beings who need to get around.

          I think there is a lot we have in common with the Netherlands.

    1. Yes he’s got his surplus and he’s also racked up $50 billion of government debt over the last 9 years. I guess this shows that tax cuts aren’t going to fix the problem. Individuals in sufficient numbers don’t seem prepared to invest enough in their personal safety to make a difference.

  5. AT has responsibility here. Matt highlighted the Bullock Track / GNR intersection as an example of AT’s skewed priorities in his post about the September 2017 Board Meeting. From the AT report:

    The intersection is “currently ranked number two in the NZTA’s Top 100 High Risk Intersections (2016) … To apply the ‘Safe System approach’ intervention at this high risk intersection and reduce the incidences of serious and fatal crashes, signalisation was considered the most appropriate option. It is expected to achieve an 88% reduction in death and serious injury (DSI) crashes at the intersection, that is 0.57 DSI crashes per year, or an estimated reduction of 18.05 injury (serious and minor) crashes per five years. The project will cost $1.7 million.”

    We were to expect more than 1 death or serious injury crash every two years on average, but the decision to upgrade the intersection was only made after it could be shown that the upgrade wouldn’t impact traffic flow.

    That’s morally deficient.

    So, AT, what about the intersections ranked number 3 and 4 – are you still allowing the DSI crashes to ruin people’s lives at those intersections, in the name of traffic flow?

  6. Big topic .

    Great article.

    Economic analysis is often made according to squeaky wheels, or easily-ascertained variables. This means that not everything is considered. For example, designing port entry/exit around optimal movement for trucks might be economically beneficial for the port and trucks, but if it causes accidents or interrupts other people (walking/cycling/car/…) then these significant factors need to be included in any analysis.

    So, let’s just say broad-horizon analysis (I just made that up, but it sounds good).

    Ultimately I think analysis is just plain faulty, and embarked on with pre-determined conclusions in mind. If this can be mitigated or fixed, the picture would change significantly.

    Thanks again for the piece. Safety is increasingly important, and with autonomous driving and other tech, the discussion will only become more complicated, so there is a real need for frameworks for discussion to emerge now rather than when these issues are upon us.

  7. Kiwis are full of ego on the road, indeed in life. This is a driving force behind many poor choices and bad behaviour that contributes significantly to accidents in NZ.

    Speak to visitors or people moving to NZ from overseas. Everyone knows Kiwis are rubbish at giving way, consideration for others on the road, letting people into traffic, racing up adjacent lanes to get ahead a few seconds, flooring the accelerator at green light, running orange/red lights, tail-gating, general aggressive driving, people being far more aggressive/assertive from the safety of their vehicle than they would be in person, etc.

    Of course these issues are not unique to NZ, it’s just that I reckon we lead the world in this poor behaviour.

    Essentially, when you boil it down, we’re precious little snowflakes.

    1. ‘Of course these issues are not unique to NZ, it’s just that I reckon we lead the world in this poor behaviour.’

      You have clearly never been on the road in any Latin American countries!

      1. You are correct, a win a chocolate fish!

        What do Lain American countries excel at in terms of ego-driven unsafe driving attitudes?

          1. Interesting example. I too have been to places where it appears to us Kiwis that the traffic is out of control.

            Yet, my experience is that in these cases, often the awareness of the actual realities (physics) of the suations is quite a bit more advanced than ours.

            Example: person riding a bicycle between motorway lanes, in Manilla, in the middle of the night, in the wrong direction (I actually witnessed this, and asked how it was possible that the cyclist hadn’t died at least a dozen times that evening alone. The response was that drivers are generally very aware of this extreme lack of rule-following, and make changes to their driving accordingly).

            I have other examples from Italy, Turkey, Thailand, etc. None of these countries have zero accidents, but it’s interesting to consider differences.

          2. kanuka – I know what you mean, there is a lot more awareness of people taking risks in these countries from other drivers and road users. However, there is only so much you can do to mitigate overtaking on blind corners. Here are some stats on road deaths per 100,000 in the countries we have discussed:

            NZ – 6.0
            Italy – 6.1
            Turkey – 8.9
            Phillipines – 10.5
            Peru – 13.9
            Colombia – 16.8
            Thailand – 36.2

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate

            They may be more aware but the stats show that if you take enough risks things will go wrong eventually.

          3. Point taken. However, as everyone knows, the situation is more complicated! These general statistics are useful, but not the be all and end all. Age and activity profiles, public transportation, regional differences, etc. are all potentially interesting rabbit holes!

          4. If you’re wondering how it’s possible that people aren’t dying all the time: it’s not. Road tolls in Asia are many times higher than New Zealand.

    2. Some of these traits have been incubated by poor road design and poor road code.

      Road design should reinforce good awareness of other road users, and repeatedly train drivers to be ready to stop, for example, to stop for any pedestrian waiting at a crossing. Instead, AT introduced “pedestrians must give way to traffic” crossings that aren’t really crossings, in about 1994. This change trained drivers to drive past a pedestrian waiting at a crossing, and has had knock-on psychological effects on drivers to be less aware of other road users.

      If NZ had the rule (common overseas) that cars turning into a side street have to give way to pedestrians, this would train drivers to have a very different awareness of other road-users too.

      1. +1

        NZ could also look at a law that in the event of automatically assumes responsibility on part of vehicles when they have accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

        I realise that this isn’t a perfect law or notion, but currently there is an imbalance in that people in vehicles are safer than pedestrians/cyclists and behave accordingly.

    3. Observing driving habits in cities where driving is not the only option is always telling to me.

      That means if someone is in their car, they have made a conscious decision that this is the appropriate mode for that journey. They could instead have taken public transport, a bicycle or walked. Therefore, they are more willing to take their time and less stressed by small delays.

      In NZ, 99% of people for 95% of journeys will see the car as their only option. They are effectively forced into that car and so are outraged when it is not the experience they expect. They get easily agitated and small delays are blown out of all proportion. Therefore, they take stupid risks to speed the journey up and are unwilling to make any concessions to other road users.

      As I do 95% of my journeys by cycling or public transport, when I do drive, I am very laid back and relaxed. I made a conscious decision to use that mode of travel and I am accepting of the consequences. If that means it takes me 20 mins to travel the 3kms along Lake Road to get on the motorway, then so be it. It was my choice.

      I honestly believe creating more choice is definitely part of the safety puzzle. Let’s remember too that the Netherlands was just voted the best place in the world to drive a car.

  8. It’s been somewhat fascinating to observe the blasé attitute to road deaths over here. Both from authorities — they’re not even trying to hide that they rank traffic flow above safety — but also from drivers.

    If you turn out of a driveway or side street, and then it turns out someone in front of you is crossing the street. So you’re on collision course with a pedestrian. What do you do:

    (A) slow down, let him cross the street. He was there first after all.
    (B) Ignore him and accelerate as usual. It’s his responsibility to get out of the way.
    (C) Do the same as B, but don’t ignore him. Lean on the horn to remind him of his responsibility.

    In Auckland the common answers would be (B) and (C).

    Isn’t that weird? Do people genuinely not care that they are potentially about to kill someone? An article posted here on Sunday Reading pointed out what a devastating experience it is to hit someone. Are Aucklanders somehow immune to that?

    I’m afraid that for politicians this simplifies the problem to: if I care about road safety, I’ll lose the next election. Game over.

    1. Yes, that situation is one of my pet peeves. My mother’s rule when she taught me to drive was to never, ever leave a pedestrian in the middle of the road. When choosing to stop, though, one gets tooted at from behind. Sometimes the pedestrian is so unfamiliar to being allowed to go that it can them take a while to realise they can. And sometimes it feels like the pedestrian is going to be hit by the person behind me overtaking me in anger.

      This cultural arrogance runs deep.

      1. This was literally the first thing I learned about Auckland (while driving from the airport on Manukau Road).

        Here’s another weird thing: you don’t see this in the rest of NZ. I noticed this in Rotorua. The suburbs to the south are criss-crossed by big 4 lane arterials, and they’re easy to cross because most drivers choose option (A) above.

        IIRC in the UK there’s a law that you have to let pedestrians finish crossing the street. Maybe we need a law like that over here.

    2. The driver has right of way. Perhaps the pedestrian should obey the law.

      I will point out this applies both ways. Pedestrians do not have a duty to look before crossing at zebras. They have right of way.

      1. Ah, no, the pedestrian does have right of way in this situation. Do you honestly think that a pedestrian who is already crossing the street has to in some way give way to a newly arrived car? Problem here, JDELH.

      2. Technically you are right but morally I see this as part of the problem: many kiwis just say “I can’t be bothered making allowance for anyone not following the rules”, even if it means injury/death.

        1. Even technically JDELH is not right here, although there are similar situations where he would be. Roeland was careful in the description.

          1. Solid point, which raises another issue: I don’t recall this specific situation being described in detail when I undertook my drivers license, so how many other people are on the wrong side of the rules?

            I recently asked Auckland Council, NZ Police and Auckland Transport about who has right of way at a specific intersection, and received three different answers!

            Incidentally, having looked at the actual law, I believe the NZ Police are correct…

          2. I don’t think it’s possible to cover every possible situation in the road rules. Sometimes you need common sense to fill in the gaps.

            Let’s consider the more general case — traffic which is driving your way but is still some distance away. Auckland has a lot of wide roads. Say it takes 15 seconds to cross one — how long will it take before you see a 15 second gap on your average arterial? De facto that means you can’t cross the road, unless you make a detour to a signalised intersection. Imagine that’s a 300m walk + wait at traffic light + walk. You’re looking at a 10 minute detour to get across the street. Sometimes we have to wonder what we’re expecting people to do.

            Think about it. Officially, some people can drive to the nearest mall in less time than it takes to cross the street to the nearest bus stop.

        2. But morally one might say that obeying the law is indeed the moral choice even if it leaves to instrumental harm (deontological rather than libertarian ethics)

          It’s not as simple as some people want it to be. Sometimes, principles are more important than utility

          1. Oh, you mean like the principle of placing human life above (particular economic) utility?

            Let’s not drag this discussion in the direction of “we can’t spend an infinite number of dollars to ensure no lives are lost” because that’s not what I mean 🙂

          2. You’re missing my point. Kant would say that if one has the option of lying to the Gestapo about Anne Frank’s location, or telling them the truth, the moral action is to tell the truth, even if the result is the death of Ann Frank. Because the principle matters. Same here. Law > life.

          3. I like your example, but not your conclusion. When the law isn’t quite right, it probably still needs to be followed. When the law is egregiously wrong, the law should not be followed. I would lie to the Gestapo.

            Rosa Parks was not a naughty little girl.

          4. The law is very clear about drivers’ responsibility to avoid a collision or causing harm if at all possible. If you hit someone and you could have stopped you will be in front of the courts.

    3. Roeland – people have cared about the road toll in the past, it was a hot topic in NZ in the early 90s and there was widespread support for speed cameras and increased road policing.

      However, the dramatic fall in the road toll has taken it out of the national conscious. It is starting to make its way back into the consciousness now as recent media coverage means a lot more people are aware it is rising.

      If it keeps tracking up it will almost certainly be an election winning issue in 2020.

  9. Safety is always going to be a balance, because if we want to truly cut the road toll to zero, we need to ban driving.

    Now we’ve got that out of the way, we can have an adult conversation of where the balance should be. If increasing the speed limit to 100kmh would increase deaths by 40 but reduce time wasted on the roads by X hours, is it worth it? If reducing the speed limit to 20kmh would reduce deaths by 40 but increase time wasted on the roads by Y hours, is it worth it?

    1. Unfortunately that conversation includes economics, and so it needs to cover a whole lot of subjects which aren’t yet in the Overton Window. Climate change is, although what we really need to do about it isn’t. Limits to economic growth aren’t there yet, nor the errors in an economic model that relies on it and on debt. Similarly, the price put on one life is too low.

      Perhaps – I’m just toying with this idea, I’m not at all sure – a life taken this way should actually be considered to have more economic impacts than a life taken through less violent means. Sounds odd, but in my family history, losing a young father to the Spanish Flu had less knock-on effects than losing a young mother to a road accident.

      The death of the young cyclist who died as I stroked her back, under a truck, had more knock-on effects than a friend who died of melanoma at about the same age.

        1. Yes, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the powerlessness of thinking that those in positions of responsibility didn’t do what they could.

          1. Populism and the cult of managerialism denying responsibility whilst preaching self responsibility to the public

    2. Na Jed, we haven’t got that out of the way, it is possible for cities to have zero road deaths, first it takes an adult to understand the word nuance and not cling to child-like attitudes that believe in silver bullets, nor dismissing a goal by overly dramatic conclusions(ban driving?). You don’t need to stop gun deaths by banning them, just regulate them properly and don’t allow those with mental health issues or a violent history to possess them, limit the calibre, reload speed and magazine size, simples.
      Here are a number of cities that managed zero road deaths without banning driving: http://www.citymetric.com/transport/map-which-european-cities-have-fewest-traffic-fatalities-347

      1. You might be able to do it in a city, but on open roads it would be very difficult without either seriously changing the speed limit (like to 50 or less), seriously changing who is allowed to drive, etc.

        1. Not true, the vast majority of dangerous rural roads could be reduced to 80km/hr and their intersections(where most fatals occur) could be changed(roundabouts are great for this as they are hard to ignore or jump) to prevent the collision of a turning vehicle and a vehicle making the jump to light speed. Median barriers on state highways would also reduce the likelihood of head on collisions especially following passing lanes. The current govt is correct when stating that the current RONS haven’t had any fatalities and they do happen to pass through predominantly rural areas….so you see it’s not all doom and gloom and there are alternatives to having a giant charnel house for a roading system 🙂
          Cost of median barriers discussed below:
          http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/341635/road-toll-rise-should-have-been-spotted-researcher

          1. Indeed, some European countries (e.g. Denmark) have differential speed limits around, for example, entry/exit points to motorways. So you might be able to drive at 130kmph in between exits, but approaching the exit your limit will decrease to 110kmph.

            I suspect that in making these changes, the Danes have done their homework (but I have no data to confirm!).

          2. But even if you spent a few trillion turning every road in the country to an expressway with a 50km/hr limit, there will still be some idiot who gets drunk and drives at 160km/hr and kills them-self. Zero will never be attainable while humans are in control.

  10. It seems that the relegation of safety as a priority is not driven by logics of economic costs. In the post it says that safety has a cost of nearly $4 billion a year (in 2015, so probably higher now) while the cost of congestion might be lucky to hit $2 billion across the whole country.

    Therefore, overall it seems like we have a $6 billion transport “problem” (probably toss a few other things in, but hey let’s keep this simple for now) and two-thirds of the problem is safety, one third congestion.

    Yet when you look at where the money is going, I’d say probably 90% of the transport budget is targeted to congestion and maybe 10% to safety. This simply doesn’t make sense when you compare it to the size of the problems being faced.

    The only explanations for this discrepancy would be politics or extremely poor economic analysis tools (or both).

    Meanwhile, people keep on dying.

  11. It’d be interesting to see what has changed since 2013 to see what might have influenced the death toll, such as a higher prevalence of smart phones? A focus on RONS and a shift in funding away from safety and education? Increased impatience based on faster flowing RONS leading to increased speeds on link roads? Larger trucks as 50 max HGVs become more common? Tourist numbers and vehicle use? Higher costs of living especially around accommodation leading to more walking and cycling to work amongst those on lower wages with no increase in pedestrian or cycle provision?

    1. Or, an increased amount of idiots? There was a sad case in a small lower North Island town a short while ago – was it 3 youths in a Subaru ? – hit a parked truck trailer (in a 50kph zone) which destroyed them, the car, the trailer, as it all became a fireball. The thing is, it moved the trailer unit over a metre – defies the laws of physics unless you factor in an extraordinarily high crash speed. In all the eulogies said by the friends of the youths, no one mentioned the obvious: too bloody fast, and not a very clever driver.

      The studies have already been done re overseas drivers – they are not over-represented in the figures – it is kiwis killing ourselves, and the sad facts are: stupid driving. Not driving to the conditions.

      1. As you might have seen in my comment I alluded to numerous possible causes, not one, I think the percentage of ‘idiots’ in the population would have remained relatively constant unless you have statistics or data that show a trend otherwise? Anecdotal examples are not a trend

  12. It just occurred to me that their won’t be a linear relationship between number of people on the road and number of deaths. If you increase the number of people on the road, then you not only increase the chance of a bad decision, but you also increase the chance that a bad decision causes a crash, and the chance of a crash affecting more than one car.

    1. You’re right. However, the concern is you would expect ongoing improvements in safety to be providing a counter balance to this, but something has gone wrong in the last four years.

  13. These road safety discussions seem to bounce around but we’re failing to make progress. People often fixate on the ONE THING: phones, teenagers, bad drivers. seatbelts, speed limits, RONS-obsession, population increase, NZTA’s conflicting goals, more trucks, or Vsion Zero. I think we need a wider discussion to properly analyse the data, hear from the public and experts, learn from what works, and address the underlying problems. Is it time for a Royal Commission of Enquiry on Road Safety? 3000+ deaths per decade suggests yes.

    1. I agree, it appears many of the conversations around speed management recently have been about increasing the speed limit to 110km or the ‘self responsibility’ line, their needs to be better leadership and an acknowledgement from the NZTA, the ministers responsible, and the Police that adopting a safer system with a multi faceted approach is necessary, it seems they’ve all been sleeping on the job

  14. NZ has too many trucks for our network (which is why more should be transported by rail) – safer and causes less damage to the roads.
    The police need to get over their obsessive speed fetish (at least on the open road). It is infinitely safer to overtake quickly than it is to be driving side by side for long periods of time overtaking someone! They need to focus more on inconsiderate driving (those that hold up traffic going 70 then speeding up to 100 on the straights and passing lanes, drink/drug driving, dangerous driving etc). Need to focus on seatbelts and motorcyclists too.

    1. Too many trucks and inadequate emphasis on further developing rail – Totally agree.

      “Infinitely safer” to encourage overtaking at high speed – Totally disagree.

      If an overtake cannot be performed safely without exceeding the speed-limit then the overtake should not even be attempted. This is just mindlessly courting risk, and for what?? A few minutes saved? An ego buzz? A cheap thrill? Go do this on an official race-track if you want to but not on roads shared with non-racers.

      Heard the adage, “It’s the overtakers that keep the undertakers busy”? It’s true.

      1. Dave B. Bollocks! When you drive on the open road regularly you will see more often than not some complete asshat plodding along as close to the centreline as possible doing 70km/h when the road is perfectly safe and reasonable for drivers young and old to be doing 100. This same person then reaches a passing lane (the first one in 30km) or a straight and decides that because the long line of 20+ cars and trucks want to pass them that they will speed up to 100 (if not 105) to make it as hard as possible for people to pass. Then immediately that the passing lane or straight finishes they drop back down to 70. Sure the difference between say 95 and 100 is pretty small and might only save a couple of minutes, however the difference between 70 and 100 could easily mean 20,30,40+ minutes and not just for one person but the line of 20 vehicles. So you’re now talking about 20×20 mins = 400 mins (6.5 hours) of time wasted (and that’s just for this one example).
        If you can overtake at 120km/h then you will be done in a matter of a few seconds. Do the same thing at 100 when they have sped up to 99 for the straight and it will take you nearly a minute!
        3 seconds on the wrong side of the road vs 45 seconds…
        let’s look at that. Distance traveled for the 3 second overtake is 100m. Distance traveled for the 45 second overtake is 1250m (in other words 12.5x as far on the wrong friggin side of the road!!) This I seriously believe plays a big part in why we have so many fatal headon crashes in this country. In fact I actually believe it is criminally negligent of the NZ police to have such a policy that creates this risky behaviour. They might not have shot the gun but they certainly have provided the faulty safety switch.
        http://i.stuff.co.nz/motoring/82259545/antispeeding-efforts-contribute-to-overtaking-hesitation-says-campaigner

        1. Bollocks AKLDUDE.
          Agree that the ‘asshat’ who holds people up then speeds-up at passing lanes is a pain, but this does not justify others imposing stupid risks on others and acting as if speed limits no longer apply to them. If you can’t overtake safely at the speed limit them don’t overtake. Period.
          Happily speed-enforcement authorities see things this way also.

          If your journey is so urgent that you cannot cope with a 20, 30, or 40 minute delay, then I suggest you have not allowed enough time in the first place. How do you respond if something else slows you down – such as fog or heavy rain? Do you still engage in risk-imposing behaviour because your own personal timescale is your only concern?

          Heard the adage, “it is better to arrive late than dead on time”? It’s true.

          1. kanuka +1
            If the consequences of risky behaviour are borne by the risk-taker alone, that is their choice however foolish.
            But imposing that risk on innocent others is absolutely NOT OK. That is the usual situation on the public road.

          2. There was an experiment many years ago where two vehicles drove from Paris to Copenhagen (just over 1200km).

            Car A drove 10kmph under the speed limit for the whole journey, and didn’t push the limits i.e. stopped at all amber lights, didn’t switch lanes to advantage, etc.

            Car B drove as fast as possible and took every opportunity to get ahead.

            I forget the details except that there was a matter of an hour or so between the two times.

          3. It is clear that not overtaking is safer than overtaking at speed. I think it is also fair to say that overtaking a car doing 90kmh is safer at 120kmh than at 100kmh, unless it is a very long straight. Overtaking at 120kmh is of course illegal, as is obstructing the flow of traffic, neither are policed much.

            I don’t think it is realistic to take one of these things seriously but not the other, if people who travel under the speed limit could be relied on to pull over there would be little overtaking and it could be outlawed. That would be quite a dramatic change to what we have currently. Even overtaking within the speed limit has dangers associated with it.

          4. If the police focused more on inconsiderate driving then there would be less need for speeding/overtaking etc and indeed traffic overall would flow much more smoothly and safely. You can’t just dismiss time out of hand like that – some people have nothing better to do than drive slowly with their thumb up their ass, other people (most people) have more important things to do than be driving well below what the road is designed for and what is legally allowed. If time didn’t matter at all as you insinuate then why do we even allow driving at 100km/h (soon to be increased to 110)? Surely time doesn’t matter so we might as well go to extremes of safety and limit all roads to only 30km/h. That way there is virtually no risk of a fatal accident at all anywhere.
            Instead we (like all other developed countries) value time (since after all time = life – we have a limited life span measured in time). That 40 minutes was for one vehicle (which could be SOV or HOV or a truck where time = money more directly). When you have a line of vehicles stuck behind a slow driver that 40 minutes can be multiplied by 20 people (as mentioned previously) that means multiple hours. This happens all around the country every hour of every day and adds up to millions of wasted man hours each year.
            Germany is often used as an example. Do want to know the real reason why it works there and why things are safer? I’ll give you a clue it’s not the roads, it’s not even the unlimited speed, or the drivers skills necessarily. What it is is that people there are considerate about letting others drive normally, it is that the police crack down more on people not keeping right (our left), or driving inconsiderately (fines for under taking etc). Even in poor weather when they sometimes impose a speed limit typically means that the limit is 130km/h!!! Snowing heavily and the overhead signs say 130km/h – they must be maniacs killing each other and themselves… oh wait no their road toll per capita is far lower than ours! Plenty of drivers and vehicles from other EU nations drive through Germany too.
            What we have in NZ is a bunch of idiots who don’t wear seatbelts, who don’t check their tyres aren’t bald or that their brakes work fine, who don’t let others pass them, who drive on the wrong side of the road/look the wrong way before pulling out (tourists/immigrants), and a police force that either from sheer incompetence or from revenue gathering orders from above has a dangerous obsession with speed while ignoring almost all other factors.

          5. Agree that this is pretty much what happens in reality in NZ.
            These arguments would apply far less on German Autobahns than on twisty, 2-lane NZ roads where just about any overtaking is dangerous.

            And agree with THE THEORY that faster overtaking on a 2-lane road means less exposure time on the wrong side. However the concern about condoning higher-speed overtaking IN PRACTICE is that it would simply encourage more risky and inappropriate overtaking in general. (“Hey guys, watch me pull this one off”. . .)

            There is a strong case for prohibiting ALL overtaking on 2-lane roads and prohibiting EVER crossing the centre line. Fitting wire-rope barriers to such roads would effectively do this, as on Centennial Highway between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, where the former accident-problem has all but disappeared.

            Don’t agree that the police have any “obsession” with speed. The people with the obsession are those who insist on speeding. And if anything, the penal regime for speeding is too light. Have a look at the penalty rates in Scandinavia if you want to see what a tough regime looks like. And their roads are among the world’s safest.
            http://www.speedingeurope.com/sweden/

    2. Do the police actually ticket that many people overtaking? About the only time I speed is when I overtake, and I’m still ticketless in 21 years of driving.

      1. Yes they absolutely do. They are often to be found waiting at the end of a passing lane or a long straight where people are overtaking.
        Admittedly some police do seem to use their discretion when they see someone passing but this is by no means the standard. Even when police themselves have been stuck in a long line behind someone who then speeds up at the straights or passing lanes they typically do nothing. At the very least they should be pulling that slow inconsiderate driver over and giving them a warning and a brief education on how their inconsiderate driving affects others. I’d like to see them actually ticketing people for doing this since it does have a direct affect on driver frustration and likely accidents.

  15. Bring in speed limits that are safe for the most vulnerable ie. pedestrians and cyclist and until we build an infrastructure that is safe, then do like they did when cars and trucks first were allowed on the roads, max speed 30 kph, only when you have clear separation will speed be safe and why rail can do 320kph (200mph) like Japan.

    Not that it’s likely to happen in NZ with road transport focused on the speed of freight and not human life, how did our parents manage before cars, it was very simple the infrastructure was there.

    1. Me: This roundabout is dangerous. Drivers speed through it. Sometimes (like the last three times) young guys are going to fast, usually at night, that they don’t make it and crash into the garden of the house on the other side of the roundabout.

      AT: Wow, that’s concerning

      (2 months, several emails and a couple of calls later)

      AT: We have a fix that should resolve this. We proposing erecting signs on the approach road in question saying “roundabout – slow down”

      Me: Multiple raised platforms, some 50m from the roundabout?

      AT: Buses don’t like them, cars find them inconvenient. Vehicles need to slow down to negotiate them.

      Me: ??????!!!!

  16. Doesn’t help the pedestrians. Nor the cyclists. Nor the many people who were wearing seatbelts. Choosing something to look at “first” just delays looking at all the other factors that need attention too.

  17. Driving is the ultimate form of personal freedom and once you’re in a car, society at large becomes an obstacle to your own personal goals. When driving, a pedestrian crossing the road or a bicycle slowing you down are fundamentally at odds with your personal rights and ‘giving them a fright’ to ensure that they are aware of how they have impeded you is a perfectly rational response. A car in front of you doing the speed limit, or, heaven forbid, below the speed limit, are the real dangers as they cause one to become so aggrieved to be held at the mercy of another that the imperative to pass becomes so great as to put themselves and others at risk. Doddering old ladies in the parking lot of the supermarket need to get out of the way – they are in the road after all – so that we can buy some wine and biscuits and speed home and sit in our patch of secluded sun and pretend that we are alone.

    I try to be immune and a patient driver, but I was born in 1985; this is the only world I have ever known and I can admit that it is in me as much as I fight it. I walk and cycle 95% of my trips, but I feel it when I drive, and sometimes when I cycle and often when I walk. We are alone in a sea of strangers who impede us. I am not dead, nor is my wife or family, so these statistics do not effect me. Every man for himself.

    1. and a car towing a trailer is a obstacle to beat. Regardless of what speed they’re going, they need to be passed. Am I on the right track? 🙂

        1. and the only thing worse than having a car pull up in front of me intending to take a parallel park (crazy driver – doesn’t she realise there’s someone behind her?), is pulling up to take a parallel park myself and having a nitwit behind me get aggro about it… 🙂

          1. Ha ha, the sad thing is, where I used to live on Hobson Street this happens all the time. You slow down and stop to parallel park, and then someone thinks you’re going to park faster if he stops 30 cm behind you.

            time passes…

            Hint: You’re not, because this car behind you is now blocking your way.

          2. I’ve seen someone hit the horn for a car that was slowing down to turn into a driveway across a busy footpath. Just the act of slowing down to turn safely.

          3. Yip, and my kids and I were narrowly missed by a car that turned into a driveway, crossing our path on the footpath. It came within a metre of us, at speed. I bothered to approach the driver and ask if he could slow down in future, and wait for us to cross the driveway. His response was no, because there was someone behind him.

          4. I must say as a pedestrian for every instance like you describe I probably see fifty instances of unsolicited driver courtesy, such as giving way while I cross at an intersection, even though they are not required to.

            Most drivers are actually quite reasonable, unfortunately it only takes one to hit me for the consequences to be quite serious.

  18. This two years I noticed the drivers are increasing dangerous. I have luckly evaded a few cars trying to crash into me in the past years.

    I am feeling the drivers has increasingly poor manners and driving skills.

    It could comes to people getting grumpy after stucked in traffic for long time.

    Also there are poor driving skills from new immigrants that skips new zealand driving skill test. Their origin country driving style may not be suitable to new zealand standards.

    1. Interesting.

      Well, rules and reality often diverge quite a bit.

      Cycling along Auckland’s Quay St towards Viaduct one goes past the old brick ferry building. Invariably, vehicles exiting the carpark don’t bother to look for cyclists as they exit that carpark to get back on the road.

      For me, the last time this happened was last week when a white van stopped across the cycle lane. I mentioned, in a friendly way, that he needed to give way to cyclists who are travelling in both directions.

      The response through the window: “Get fucked!”

      Pretty much all cyclists have had similar experiences.

      The attitude that results in this type of response, as opposed to “Oops, sorry mate. Will do better in future!”, is the root of the problem. Kiwis do not like following rules.

      So you go past the police on the open road. You were driving 105kmph. Do you get a ticket?

      Ditto in an urban area doing 58kmph. Ticket?

      Suggestion: people should follow the law, and take responsibility for their own actions.

      NZ: great!

      Suggestion: cars these days can tell your actual speed to 1-2kmph. Speed cameras should issue tickets for any vehicle travelling 3+kmph over the applicable limit.

      NZ: whaaaattt! That’s revenue-gathering.

      Opposition politicians: That’s like tax!

      NZ: don’t like tax!

      Govt: ok we’ll make it a grey area that’s so grey, nobody will ever touch it again.

      NZ: done!

      1. I would say Kiwis are very good at following, except in a car. It is the one time we lose all our social cohesion and generally pleasant approach to strangers.

        I still say (per my comment above) that this is largely down to the following that driving is forced on us as most people see no real alternative. PT and cycling have been so marginalised that the question “how should I get there” is not even asked.

        There is only one answer for 95% of Aucklanders – the car. Regardless of distance, weather or the roading environment being travelled.

  19. So the four new speed cameras at Waterview are at each end of the tunnels.
    In 41 days they have issued just about a million dollars in speed fines and now its reported that use of the tunnels is declining.
    At near 9 mil a year that should mean payback in about 200 years.

    1. You break the law, you pay a fine.

      I dont see anyone getting all hot under the collar for all the bicycle helmet fines handed out each year. An infraction that carries 0% risk for anyone else as opposed to speed which is a factor in 100% of crashes.

      1. The reason I mentioned this is not to complain about speeding fines but that these cameras could have been placed at accident prone areas where speeding is contributing to accidents.
        Placing four at Waterview looks so damm obvious that they are just a revenue collecting device and NOT contributing to road safety.
        Has there been any serious road accidents at either end of the Waterview tunnels? – don’t think so.
        Why are the police supporting this revenue collection instead of deploying the cameras to reduce road accidents?
        Shame on police and NZTA

        1. Doesn’t matter whether they are “revenue collecting devices” or “contributing to safety”. The intelligent response is to observe the speed limit regardless. It’s really not that hard.
          Getting ticketed and then complaining about it is unintelligent.
          And as for “NOT contributing to road safety” – how do you know this? The fact that there have been no serious accidents may be *because* of the cameras.

          This is like the Ngauranga Gorge whinge-brigade. Prior to the late 1990’s, the speed limit in the Ngauranga Gorge was 100Km/h. However this is a very-busy stretch of highway between two interchanges which give rise to a lot of lane-switching, plus it is on a steep gradient and prone to Wellington’s weather. 100Km/hr was a recipe for “misjudgement crashes” and they used to happen regularly, fatals included.
          Around 1999 IIRC, the speed limit was lowered to 80 and a speed camera installed. The accident problem virtually disappeared overnight.
          But now, a crop of idiots who either don’t know the road’s history or choose to ignore it, complain that the speed limit is too low and that the camera is just there as a revenue-collecting device “because there are no bad accidents happening”.
          Breathtakingly good way to advertise a low I.Q.

    2. That one is rather interesting. I suspect that if you go northbound, the cameras are where you enter the tunnel, just where the road has quite a slope downwards.

      Then what will happen is: you’re driving 75, you enter that slope, your car speeds up to 90 and you get a ticket. Maybe you were paying attention this time and you didn’t get one. But sooner of later you will get caught out. A speeding ticket over there is as unavoidable as next Monday.

      I’m still not sure if I figured it out in time. I got a speeding ticket once, and it arrived into my mailbox about 6 months after the infraction. So I’m still awaiting whether I’ll get one now.

      Incidentally, that delay also settles the question about what the point of speeding fines is. Delays that long confirm that it’s just a lame revenue gathering exercise. And a lazy one. If you ask me, they’re doing it wrong.

      1. I imagine if the speed limit is 80kmh in the tunnels, the reason would be identical on the downhill bits as it is on the flat. It’s up to the driver to keep there car at the speed limit on any downhill road.

      2. No, it’s drivers who are going downhill at 75km/h and can’t be bothered to use their brakes or check their speedo who are lazy.

        There are *very good* reasons safety is more strictly regulated in tunnels. Laziness isn’t an excuse for loosening that.

        It’s completely avoidable, and if you get a ticket you can take a lesson from it.

  20. Some comments:

    1) [Formally adopting “Vision Zero” as a guiding strategy, not accepting any deaths] – couldn’t agree more

    2) [Reducing speed limits in high risk areas and on most urban streets] – speed limits are generally set at the 85th percentile speed. Arbitrary reductions alone will not work. It would also require some minor engineering to reduce the operating speeds. E.g narrower lane widths decrease the speed people feel comfortable driving at. Having double white lines on the centerline in crash risk areas will narrow the lanes and the speed people feel comfortable driving at.

    3) [Re-focusing infrastructure investment away from a very small number of incredibly expensive motorway extensions and towards improving safety through median barriers and other improvements across many more locations.] – Yes, but motorways do have the lowest crash rates. If we had congestion tolls as well then the expensive motorway projects could be constructed over a longer time period freeing up more funding for safety works.

    4) [Changing the economic evaluation manual so that high priority safety projects are able to occur, even if they create traffic delays] – Yes. NZTA doesn’t even have a Safety (infrastructure)activity class – there is one for safety education. Government should set a policy so that there specific safety funding for infrastructure. The USA DoT has a much higher value of life than NZ. We could have approach based signal phasing with no filtering traffic where needed.

    5) But we also need to remember the human causes of many of the crashes in NZ.
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Our-Work/Documents/Summary-o
    page 37
    114. For example, in 2016, provisional road toll data indicates that:
    • 42 percent of fatal crashes had drugs and/or alcohol as a contributing factor
    • 39 percent of drivers and 42 percent of passengers killed in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts

    There is still a lot we can do about the above factors.

    Also if I remember correctly about 94% of all crashes come down to human factors, about 4% the state of the vehicle and about 2% other factors like the road.

    6) NZ’s approach to speed cameras is weak. Where I live there is a camera every 2 or 3km and they are bringing in timed travel cameras as well so that you cant speed between them. All the cameras are in plain sight. NZ should simply do the same. The cameras will pay for themselves. Anyone exceeding the speed limit by an excessive amount can simply have license revoked and their cars impounded.

    7) But, coming back to the first point (vision zero) there is still a lot NZ can do to road design – eg wire rope barrier on 1×1 roads in high risk areas.
    The Swede’s fatality rate is about 1/3 NZ (2.0 per 100,000pop vs 6.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death…) and they have a vision http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

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