This is a guest post by Pippa Coom, Chair, Waitematā Local Board. Pippa recently attended and presented at the the Local Government Road Safety Summit called by Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter. 

It has been a sad week on Auckland roads. Three pedestrians have been killed using local streets going about every day activities. At the same time that NZ is experiencing increasing numbers of road deaths and serious injuries (37% increase in fatalities since 2013) Auckland is facing an even greater road safety crisis. Tragically in the past three years, Auckland’s deaths and serious injuries (DSI) have increased at almost triple the rate of the rest of NZ and around five times the growth of travel. Of 29 world cities, Auckland has the second highest pedestrian fatality rate.

The Local Government Road Safety Summit in Wellington on 9 April was called by Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter to respond to the rising number of people dying on NZ roads. The Summit provided the opportunity for Councils to put forward and discuss what actions they could take that would have the greatest enduring effect on road safety and influence the Government’s planning for road safety. The delegation from Auckland was made up of Mark Gilbert, AT board director, Andrew Allen, Chief Transport Operations Manager, Randhir Karma, Group Manager Network Management & Safety, Kathryn King, Walking & Cycling & Safety Manager and Andrew Bell, Strategy & Performance Team Leader from Auckland Transport and Councillor Chris Darby and myself.

In November I reported on the positive signs from the Trafinz conference in Nelson. It aligned with the incoming government strongly signalled fresh vision on transport policy including prioritising safety. The Summit provided Local Government with the first direct steer that the current level of road fatalities is unacceptable that we must all work together on a new approach to road safety to make a difference.

In opening the Summit, the Minister declared that going forward there would be no more reference to a “road toll” as it suggests society is required to pay a tithe for supposedly inevitable consequences of the transport system. Through the draft GPS the government has made safety a priority. This means that local roads, where the majority of road trips take place and where half of DSI occur, will no longer be starved of funding.

The Minister announced that a new national road safety strategy will be reviewed by September 2019 for implementation from 2020 with clear deliverables and targets. For the first time the Government will look at adopting Vision Zero. This announcement was greeted with applause from the packed conference room. Vision Zero is the highly successful Swedish road safety system based on the ethical principle that no loss of life is acceptable. It requires a design approach that recognises everyone makes mistakes.

Local Government was challenged to be brave and not allow opposition to every new road treatment to slow action on safety. The need to bring the community along through robust engagement was also acknowledged at the Summit.

Caroline Perry from Brake, the Road safety charity was invited to make opening comments to the conference about the terrible trauma confronting NZ families due to the sudden, violent and needless deaths of loved ones in road crashes. In calling on Local Government to take action on road safety and in support of NZ adopting Vision Zero, Caroline quoted Martin Luther King “The time is always right to do what is right”

Dr Paul Graham NZTA’s Principal Scientist presented New Zealand’s current road safety performance – why is our casualty rate so high? He built on a presentation he gave at Trafinz looking at the complex reasons why NZ’s road safety performance is declining. Some of his key findings:

  • 55% increase in DSI in last 5 years well above increase in population, vehicles on road and kilometres travelled
  • In users there has been no great change eg overseas drivers, motorcycles (+11% licensed drivers) are slowly rising; older drivers are steady
  • There has been a 100,000 increase in the heavy vehicle fleet 2013-17
  • Open road speeds are going up annually by 1%. For every 1% increase in speed there is a 4% increase in fatalities (corridors make up 4% of the network but 30% of fatalities and serious injuries)
  • Vehicle safety is another factor. Half of all occupant fatalities are in vehicles more than 15 years old (used car fleet getting bigger. 40% of vehicles have only a 1 or 2 star rating).
  • 2/3 of cars driven by young people only have a 1 star rating
  • There has been a doubling in the number killed not using a seat belt in last 3 years.

After the presentations, including a panel discussion on Local Government’s view about what more can be done to improve road safety (as part of the panel I gave a presentation on Auckland’s road safety crisis), participants workshopped how to make faster progress, what the obstacles are now, what action local government can take and what changes are needed to central government funding and policy.

What was hugely encouraging from the Summit was the large representation of councils from across NZ and the common themes that emerged, such as support for Vision Zero and lowering of default speeds, the critical need for strong central government leadership and building a safety culture, investment in enforcement, rule changes and resourcing for education (the Ministry of Transport will publish a full summary from the Summit). However, the strength of the collective commitment to prioritise safety will no doubt be tested through individual council feedback on the GPS and the action taken on the ground by all agencies to get behind delivering on ambitious targets.

The challenge in bringing communities along in support of a new approach with an aspirational goal of a transport system where nobody dies was highlighted by a particularly egregious, completely evidence -free and cold hearted Dom Post editorial in response to the Summit calling Genter’s road toll target a fantasy. The anonymous writer suggests that as a Minister of the Crown she should be delivering facts, not fantasy because it is it is condescending and patronising that she would promote a nonsensical target of zero road deaths.

In this thread of tweets the Minister issued a robust response pointing out the many factual errors in the editorial, lazy assumptions and the complete lack of understanding about what Vision Zero delivers.

Community by community, we are already aspiring to a transport system where nobody dies if someone stuffs up. Shortly after the summit the Minister received a petition from Cycle Action Network of over 11,500 signatures calling on government and local authorities to stop the deaths of New Zealanders on bicycles and to make streets that are safe to cycle.

A majority of councillors and the Mayor supported Hamilton becoming the first NZ city to adopt a zero target (as part of the Access Hamilton Strategy) after realising that there have been years in which the city had already experienced no road deaths. Once that was acknowledged they decided it was no longer acceptable to set a “target” that presumed some people had to die (Video: Hamiliton Mayor Andrew King interview with Duncan Garner Can NZ achieve a zero road toll?). In Auckland we are close to adopting Vision Zero to demand and inspire action. Cr Chris Darby has led the way on the Auckland Plan 2050 including a focus on moving to a safe transport network free from death and serious injury.

The Minister demonstrated her determined leadership on road safety by attending the full day of the Summit and actively participated in the sharing of ideas with Local Government. A new road safety strategy with a Vision Zero approach is vital but to tackle Auckland’s road safety crisis we need to be brave and take action now.

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  1. The number of pedestrian deaths is up 44%. I was almost added to the statistic a few months ago. As I approached a pedestrian crossing on foot, another pedestrian was waiting to cross at a 90 degree angle from me. As I reached out to press my button, the buzzer sounded because she had already pressed hers. I saw no red warning not to cross, so stepped onto the crossing, only to narrowly avoid being hit by a car approaching at 40-50 km/h from my right, which had a green light.

    After watching the light change sequence several times, it became obvious that the red man indication that forbids crossing was presented to me only if I had pressed my button. At other times there was no indication that I must not cross, and the buzzer triggered by the other pedestrian fooled me into crossing.

    I phoned the Council immediately and reported this incident, but the call taker could not comprehend the situation and we became angry with each other. I have no idea whether this complaint was ever recorded, since nobody ever called me back, and that is a matter of concern in itself. I understand that Council some years ago turned off the continuous red man indicator at some intersections as a strategy to save power.

    1. That is a ‘feature’ of the system that aligns with the law. You are allowed to cross at any time so long as the red signal is not lit. So technically you can choose to not push the button and cross at your own leisure/risk, as you would any unsignalised intersection or street.

      I personally can’t recall there ever being a continuous red man indicator in Auckland, when do you think that was? They have that regime in cities abroad tho.

      1. Auckland trialled it a few years ago (I am sure there there were posts about it on here) but people didn’t like it as they assumed that the buttons had been pressed as they saw a red man.

      2. Don’t know about Auckland, but there are several crossings in Wellington where the green person (it’s not just men!) changes automatically from green to red, with no need for pedestrians to press the beg button.

        1. This is highly unusual in Auckland, I don’t think I have ever personally seen this. Even though there’s plenty of crossings where there is always a phase where no other traffic crosses the pedestrian crossing.

          Eg. anywhere on Hobson Street, Fanshawe Street on-ramp, etc, etc.

    2. I had a near miss doing the same stepping into the road when I head the other buzzer. I was distracted using my phone. Sadly I think phones and headphones are a cause of a lot of pedestrians being hit. At least once a week I need to avoid pedestrians stepping onto the street without looking on my way to work.
      The red signal normally only appears if a button is pressed. The exception is some of the busy city crossings that always have pedestrian phases during daytime hours.

  2. I have noticed the number of pedestrians crossing less than 20m away from a dedicated crossing seems to be very high. I often wonder why people aren’t willing to make the extra effort to take the safer crossing (where drivers are obliged to stop for you) and instead cut through lanes of moving traffic. It’s because New Zealander’s, in my opinion, are getting lazier. It’s high time we tackled our alarming attitude to road safety.

      1. And because you have to be so assertive to get the drivers to stop, and then do the same thing for the other side. There’s often no “preparing to stop” before a crossing, only “stopping if the pedestrian puts a foot out”.

    1. Depends on what kind of “dedicated crossing”:

      – the most common kind is the little island thing in the middle of the street. Drivers are not obliged to stop there. (the islands also usually have mountable kerbs, so they’re not that safe).

      – Zebra crossings: That would be a good question, but they’re quite rare anyway. My observation in Birkenhead is that people tend to use the zebra crossings.

      – Signalised pedestrian crossing: completely useless due to the long delay after pressing the button.

        1. So what do we have in Avondale? Google Earth shows just the first kind. If this is still accurate that answers your question: people don’t use dedicated crossings because there are no dedicated crossings.

        2. Great North Road: Three zebra crossings (two raised tables)
          St Jude Street; One zebra crossing (on raised table) one refuge crossing
          St Georges Road: One refuge crossing
          Great North & Rosebank Rds. Traffic light intersection

        3. St Georges Road looks to me to be about 800 metres long and has just one crossing, which is not even dedicated, it’s just a refuge. I think it is pretty obvious why people cross at other points.

        4. And mine.

          And I am teaching my kids the same behaviour, too, because it is safer for them to learn to have their heads up and be gauging the traffic, than over-relying on other people complying with the lights, signs, and markings that so many drivers plain ignore.

          That being said, more drivers than not are pretty polite when you have kids with you. But not all of them…

      1. You are right about Birkenhead – they have six zebra crossings within less than 200m (my guess). They work fine whether I am a pedestrian or a driver. It has always been that way (well for the last 16 years at least) so not the result of recent planning.

        Outside of Birkenhead I am one of those who take my chances between the cars queuing at junctions – picked up the habit in Oxford St London half a lifetime ago and never likely to change now – I did notice this morning in Takapuna that I’m far slower at jumping out of the way of fast cars.

        Has the increase in pedestrian accidents been caused by the dramatically increased use of Public transport. When I travel by car I go door to door (well my ROW to the supermarket car park) but when travelling by bus I have a 1km walk to the bus stop and usually another walk at the other end. There must be statistics for increasing numbers of pedestrians and the distances they are walking.

        1. The absolute increase in number of pedestrian and cyclists deaths and injuries will be due to increase in active modes which will continue to rise. So Having we need to make it safer for those people who are not protected by their vehicle as well as educate them on safe walking and cycling and of course educate us drivers as well.

    2. Seeing as we don’t have the death penalty for violent crimes but apparently have it for ‘crossing the street at an inconvenient time for f**knuckle mcgee in his expensive car’ i believe it is high time the burden of proof in court lay on the murder box operator. Prove that you weren’t operating recklessly or with intent to kill when you crushed that poor human.

      1. So guilty until proven innocent? Yea let’s just suspend one of the rules of law because you’ve got apparent issues with expensive cars, drivers in general or both.

        1. Are cars killing 400 pedestrians a year? Are expensive cars killing 400 pedestrians a year?

        2. Wouldn’t have to suspend the rule of law. You could just have a law that all drivers are responsible for avoiding a collision with a pedestrian in the same way maritime law says all skippers are responsible for avoiding a collision.

        3. Yes the owner of the two tonne murder box has to prove that they were operating in a careful manner within the exact rules of the law and were not abusing the PRIVILEGE that is a licence to operate said weapon….but my main issue is the 400 dead a year, 12 000 injured, $4 billion a year for those deaths and injuries…not to forget the 40 000 people that have died since the ‘great leap forward to the car’ that Sid Holland enacted in the 1950s. Funny how your type never mention the deaths and injuries 🙂

        4. “Murder box” How do I do an eye-rolling smiley so big that it covers the entire screen?

        5. I think they sell some creme down at Unichem for your butthurt there mr wizard 😉 but you can ignore the elephant in the room that is the resulting deaths, wounded, missing loved ones, $4 billion in social costs, obesogenic environment creation, sprawl and subisidies that those status driven pieces…i mean murder boxes cause 😉 i think globally it’s 1.4 million deaths a year…the kind of industrial killing that a dictator would be envious….have a nice chew on those lovely numbers 🙂

        6. Yes, a car is purely about status. Jeez I can’t imagine why people can’t get in behind the PT movement. I’m glad you apparently don’t drive much because it’s people with derrangement issues like yours that are dangerous behind the wheel.

          By the way, if you have a list of all the innovations and safety improvement made to bicycles in the last 100 years, I’d love to see how that stacks up against the changes made to vehicles in the name of safety. By your logic, bike retailers are as cupable for cyclist deaths as tobacco companies are for lung cancer deaths. When do we start hanging those buggers from the lamposts?

        7. Plus Fred, it’s funny how “your lot” seem incapable of gasping why people use cars, or that there could be any possible benefit from them whatsoever. Don’t let anything get in the way of the froth, with a bit of misguided class rage thrown in for no good reason.

          Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Aucklanders who aren’t priveleged enough to have access to PT or a job within walking/cycling distance just try and live their lives, but according to you, they’re scum of the earth. Frankly I don’t know how they can even live with themselves.

        8. I love the delicate little dance you do around the numbers of dead and dismembered…you’re like a ballerina 😉 and how you reduce my argument to a black and white fallacy with no space for a nuanced approach, i think aeroplanes are beneficial but not if every tom, dick and harry has one, same with guns, same with cars, prove you’re not a incompetent tw*t with an entitlement complex, possess a pragmatic reason to use on without a giknockapod govt subsidy and yea if you’re responsible you may have the privilege to get behind the wheel. But you and i both know it’s all or nothing, human sacrifice for the technological convenience…onward 🙂

        9. You’re arguing about changing the way the law works to assume fault on one party without any evidence and then pleading for flexibility for a ‘nuanced’ approach? I’m out.

        10. Do our gun laws have a nuanced approach, yes, does the legal framework around aircraft use and licencing place the burden of proof upon the operator, yes, do we ban these objects outright? No, we have a more restrictive and punitive approach to who gets to use them and when, put the onus on the owner/operator not to kill people period, and that if they do then they have to perform legal backflips to prove they were operating within the letter of the law and with due diligence. What you’re saying is that you want the RIGHT(like it’s in some non-existent 1950s constitution) to operator a motor vehicle and that if people step out in front of it that it’s on them, a death penalty for mistakes. That’s the definition of entitlement, taking a privilege that receives status, social approval and taxpayer subsidies and convert it to a right, and anyone that gets in the users way can die. Worse than the NRA really considering there’s is in a constitution, rightly or wrongly ;-).

      2. Agree. You could add a similar sentence for using a mobile phone while driving, which is just about a conspiracy to commit murder (of a pedestrian). The cars are getting faster, especially around corners, but we still assume the same sight distance and impact speed will occur.

    3. Sort of agree but also many drivers don’t stop or slow down for zebra crossings so perception is same safety risk to cross anywhere. I think all non signalled zebra crossings be slightly raised platforms to force people to slow down. Signalled crossings are fine but need to be smarter. E.g. the new one on Williamson St is often red when there are no ped as they cross beforehand or elsewhere etc. This may be a problem with wait time.

  3. This is an area EVERYONE has to play a part. We have a phenomenal amount of vehicles on the road and growing and there will be the old standards proposed like reducing vehicle speeds to 20-40/kmhr in suburbia, speed bumps for Africa, bring back the man with the red flag walking in front of cars and above all else blame drivers but the reality is we are all about looking after ourselves and each other.

    It should be no surprise but after 9 years of budget cuts and frozen budgets from the ever popular National Party, traffic law enforcement almost ceased to exist. This is a fact! There will be many years of catch up to fix this broken system. Hence all the cell phone use and do as you please driving has become the norm because the chances of getting caught were non existent. Secondly drivers have to stop the infantile behaviour when they do get caught.

    1. A lot of crashes aren’t caused by bad drivers or law breaking drivers, they are caused by reasonable drivers or pedestrians that make one simple mistake. The cheapest and most effective way to fix this is to lower the speed limit.

  4. Remind me again why any money is being spent on roads to improve traffic flow? At this stage of our transport infrastructure failure, funding needs to be completely reallocated to safety, accessibility and sustainability projects.

    Thanks for the article, Pippa.

    1. Traffic flo’ (short for florence) is a goddess of death and tarseal that requires regular tribute in the form of human sacrifice and gold or the great beast called ‘The Economy’ will supposedly destroy the nation in a fit of recession and rage…apparently 😉

    2. Because not everybody can afford to live in Pt Chev or Birkenhead.
      If you are out in the sticks (remember when Silverdale was only farmland) and all events and jobs are in the city then you need roads and roads where the traffic flows and you are not spending 2 hours travelling to work. I remember that lifestyle 40 years ago in London before I emigrated and you didn’t get to see your babies awake during the week leaving at 7am and returning at 7pm. Well worth a little extra risk in your life to see your children at their most love-able age.

      1. “Well worth a little extra risk. . .”? Possibly, if you the risk-taker, are the only one to bear the consequences if it all goes wrong.

        But DEFINITELY NOT if that risk is imposed on innocent others.

        And therein lies the No1 problem with the whole of road transport. Its damaging externalities affect all of us.

        1. At one extreme they would just pour concrete everywhere and at the other extreme they could dig up all roads and plant cabbages. Nobody supports either extreme so it is just a discussion about where to draw the line with everyone wanting some roads and nobody wanting accidents. Where there are moving vehicles on roads there will be accidents. Lets just make our roads safer with fewer accidents and better survival rates when there is an accident but if that means no traffic flow then we might as well have no roads.

        2. On the other hand transport entities such as KiwiRail face enormous sanctions if a fatality or serious injury, or even ‘near-miss’ fatality or serious injury is found to have been their fault or reasonably within their power to have avoided. Prosecution and heavy penalties (even jail-terms) are a real possibility, as is enforced grounding of operations in all situations where a similar incident could potentially occur, until the risk-path is proven to be rectified. The objective is to ensure that it NEVER happens again, or at least to demonstrate that all reasonable steps have been taken, and any mandatory recommendations have been followed, to close whatever loophole allowed it to occur. The philiosphy is called “Zero Harm”, and the contrast between this and what goes on out there on the roads couldn’t be more stark.

          So thank goodness for people like Julie Ann Genter and Pippa Coom who are prepared to grapple with this issue and treat it with the level of seriousness it warrants – a level of seriousness not seen before in this country.

      2. If sprawl means we have to accept “a little extra risk” – then sprawl is a killer. Well, yes.

        Remove funding from traffic flow projects, and put it into rapid transit, safety and active mode projects. We might even find that no-one supports greenfields sprawl or NIMBY regulations anymore…

  5. Just change the bloody speed limits! There is absolutely no reason to have a 50km/hr limit with 10km/hr tolerance (effectively 60km/hr limit) in the city centre or on residential streets. Reduce to 40km/hr or 30km/hr and reduce tolerance to 4km/hr permanently.
    50km/hr with 4km/hr tolerance is probably OK on arterials.
    Buy more speed cameras. They must be pretty cheap by now.

    1. Agree, we should not have fast flowing traffic in our commercial precincts. 40km is probably the maximum it should be. 30km in many other areas.

    2. And red light cameras. Red light running is at epidemic proportions and the percentage of intersections covered by red light cameras is vanishingly small. The expense of these cannot be great.

    3. Yes despite all the FUD, we can lower speed limits on smaller streets to 30, and you’ll barely notice it when driving because you spend most kilometres on arterials and motorways.

      There’s also no reason for any tolerance, since then the actual speed limit becomes the limit + tolerance. However measured speed should be corrected downwards because radars etc. aren’t 100% accurate.

    4. Two words, “Nanny State”.

      This government does not have the credit or good will to survive Nationals ol’ fave by lowering speed to those kind of limits. It is politically untenable.

      Upping driver skills, mandatory 5 year licence recertifications for example, because there are an awful lot of talentless drivers out there, and passive safety improvements is about the only way forward.

        1. Point is raising the bar, not the depths it is now where drivers ad lib on the rules because they don’t know them, cannot perform basic tasks such as parallel parking or know how to operate basic features in their cars. That sort of thing!

        2. If they don’t know the rules and can’t perform basic tasks then how did they get a licence in the first place?

          You’ve given no argument as to why driver testing every five years would improve driver abilities.

        3. Maybe you dont see the ability to have some kind of skill to driving cars and knowing ALL road rules as important, but I do.

          How is it safe that once you’ve sat driving tests way back in the day, highly likely to be under a very low level testing regime, is it okay to go out for life and never be retested again? There are people out there who haven’t looked at a road code in years, 5, 10, 30, 50 years! They were shit drivers then, how about now?

          There are people out there who, by having some kind of foreign drivers licence, at times from a country that drives on the right, driving here right now who know virtually none of our rules.

          Road rules are constantly being amended or refined but in NZ you don’t need to know them. Few people knew the old right hand rule. Few know how to comprehend what a road sign means because I see it every day. Do they even see them? Why do people treat give way round about’s as a compulsory stop but have no idea what a compulsory stop means and treat them as give ways?

          I see driving as a privilege of controlling a machine that demands we know what we are doing, perhaps you see it as a entitlement. Hence we have so many half wits on the road who are like watching the blind leading the blind.

          Crashes are not just one moments bad luck, they are a chain event of small things that are based on a foundation of poor driving skills. Simply lowering the speed limit as a surrender to shit drivers is not the solution. They are still poor drivers.

          Retesting regularly should, if its done correctly identify drivers weaknesses and force them to address those weaknesses or alternatively take PT!

        4. And to add to that is the AA have courses to up skill older drivers who and it is almost unbelievably but really highlights what I am saying:

          Have no idea how to adjust the drivers seat in any form
          No idea how to adjust the exterior mirrors or even the interior one
          Don’t know how to operate the headlights, demisters or are even aware their car has adjustable steering columns.

          They just get/got in and drove, where nothing was adjusted for them to drive, not knowing how to operate the bloody machine were in “control of”.

          I will safely assume they know few rules as well.

          These people are out there on our roads and we wonder why we have the road toll we do!

        5. ‘There are people out there who, by having some kind of foreign drivers licence, at times from a country that drives on the right, driving here right now who know virtually none of our rules’.

          New Zealand’s road rules are pretty much the same as they are in most countries, which rules do you think are different? I doubt there is anyone in NZ that has moved from a country that drives on the right that isn’t aware we drive on the left. If they weren’t aware they would hardly have made it out of the car yard.

          Just because someone doesn’t stop at a stop sign doesn’t mean they don’t know the rules. I quite often treat them as give way signs, but if I were to be tested tomorrow I would know to stop at all of them during the test.

          All testing does is confirms people can be compliant when they need to be, not that they will be compliant every day. You are dreaming if you think there would be any appetite for regular testing amongst the public, it would be political suicide.

      1. “This government does not have the credit or good will to survive Nationals ol’ fave by lowering speed to those kind of limits. It is politically untenable.”

        It’s in the speed management guide prepared by the National Government. The government and AT would simply be enacting national’s policies.

      2. So a big % of heavy truck drivers now have their driving skills tracked and reported on. Not all operators have access or regularly monitor it if they do, as it is voluntary to get it and to use it. (And it comes at a financial cost.)

        But where they do use the information, the incidences of risk-creating behaviours – speeding, harsh accelerating and braking, harsh cornering – decrease.

        It points to a future where – Nanny State being willing – you can competency assess someone’s actual driving, against benchmark or target values, over any given period as a basis for granting, maintaining, or extending their license or certification.

        And as I led, that future is already here in a limited deployment form. Is it one we want on a broader scale?

      3. I’m not sure that additional testing solves the problem if the problem is people driving carelessly. People may well have the skills to drive competently and defensively when they put their minds to it (like in a test situation) but tend to drift into poor behaviours on roads they know well when they are under no scrutiny. There is an attitude issue here, but it is likely to be partly driven by the slackening of interest in the details of safety by the government over a number of years.

      4. I think that there are many people with consistently poor driving skills, for example speeding through town centres, driving while using a cellphone, following too closely behind other vehicles or changing lanes constantly on motorways. They are the people we need to focus on because they endanger their own lives and others.

        Rather than target every driver, I would be happy to see tailgaters and the like having their driving licenses down-graded to a restricted license, requiring them to complete driving instruction and show sustained competence to regain full license privileges. This inconvenience on its own may serve as a deterrent to persistent poor or aggressive driving.

      5. You think it’s all the drivers’ fault? If you can’t drive fast and safe, you’re a bad driver. Reminds me of how a man has to be able to hold his liquor…

    5. Agree on dropping speeds in all urban areas. I think on rural roads should be done on a case by case basis, a number of high crash areas have gone to 80km/hr over the recent years/decades alternatively open road speed could be default of 90km/hr with safer ones having a 100km/hr specific limit. Top limit for trucks is 90 anyway isn’t it?

  6. I often have the impression that many people wouldn’t care if 100 people die on the roads tomorrow. For example:

    – A lot of drivers swerve very aggressively around other vehicles slowing down to turn. Van turning left? Swerve to the meridian. Fingers crossed there’s nobody else on that meridian, because with that van in front of you you’re not going to see them.

    – There’s really bugger all expectation of avoiding running into pedestrians when driving. There’s one in front of your car? Whatever, keep that foot down, he’s supposed to jump out of the way. This is very obvious at pedestrian refuges, many people don’t expect anyone to stop, and won’t cross until you come to a complete stop and wave.

    – Reducing speed limits: the council won’t do it, period. Even in obvious cases like shared spaces in the CBD, or shopping strips.

    Another thing you notice this time of the year is headlights which aren’t on. Your lights should be on in heavy rain, during dusk/dawn, in tunnels, under the spaghetti junction, etc. Strictly speaking your car isn’t invisible in those situations, but you can be hard to spot between parked cars, in mirrors, etc.

    1. Yes, in particular people in grey cars driving in low light conditions can be almost invisible particularly in peripheral vision.

      1. I find it curious that we still do not have automatic headlights on cars in New Zealand. I went to the USA in 1984 and hired cars there where the headlights not only came on automatically when it was getting dark, but also that they would automatically switch between high-beam and dip when they detected another cars headlights. It was pretty standard equipment on a number of American cars back then – sort of extraordinary that we have not got it as standard on every new car coming into NZ now.

        But we don’t. Instead, we rely on the fallibility of average humans to remember. Very, very unreliable. “in particular people in grey cars driving in low light conditions can be almost invisible”. aka death-traps waiting to happen.

        So, at the very least, we should have signs up to tell people to “Put your lights on!” every time they exit somewhere well-lit (like a petrol-station forecourt, central city streets, etc), where you may drive around with no lights on and not notice for a while. Certainly, those expensive NZTA signs on motorways should flash up notices from time to time near dusk “Got your lights on?” – the cost of programming the signs to do this must be almost near zero – just do it, alright?

    2. Completely agree. It is almost terrifying how blasé some people are about extremely risky behaviors.

      I do a lot of rural driving at the moment and there are definitely similar problems there. People happy to follow the speed limit, but also happy to sit a car length behind you at 95km/h, even though there are four vehicles in front of you is the most obvious example.

      1. “happy to sit a car length behind you at 95km/h” When they do that, I just slow down more. And more. Eventually, they overtake you, and roar away to cause misery elsewhere.

        I’m operating on the belief that they are not actually really going to deliberately ram you from behind, as much as they pretend they might be about to. Tailgaters can get stuffed.

        1. I do the same, gradually slow down until they get the point. I’m not scared they are going to deliberately ram me. But if I have to do an emergency stop, then they have hit me before their brain picks up that my brake lights are on.

    3. compulsory DRL for all new vehicles is an easy, quick and cheap measure to implement.
      Can also make it compulsory for all vehicles under 7 years of age to have DRL fitted within 2 years – again wouldn’t be hard to do (especially if they were subsidised). Older cars would be exempt due to factors such as cost, less life left in the car, etc.
      All buses and trucks 20 years or younger should have them fitted too.
      Would reduce a lot of serious head-on fatal accidents and also a large reduction in pedestrian accidents due to the improved visibility of the vehicle.

      The government wouldn’t lose any points at all for the new vehicle requirement and only small amount (probably balanced out by reducing the road toll) for the other measures (especially if implemented properly).

      1. I presume that DRL means day running lights, in which case their widespread use would create another issue: things without DRL (pedestrians, cyclists, posts etc) would become less visible, and therefore more at risk.

        There’s a big, challengeable assumption behind the assertion that this would result in fewer pedestrian crashes (accidents is a loaded word) because of the improved visibility of vehicles: what about the visibility of pedestrians (etc) by drivers?

        1. DRL are international best practice. They improve the visibility of vehicles.
          True they don’t improve pedestrian visibility however their aim is to reduce vehicle+vehicle accidents and also to make vehicles more visibile to pedestrians and cyclists. The small chance that they would somehow increase danger to pedestrians and cyclists if they aren’t as visible would by far be outweighed by the reduction in deaths from them now being able to see the vehicle coming.

        2. You wrote “The small chance that they would somehow increase danger to pedestrians and cyclists if they aren’t as visible would by far be outweighed by the reduction in deaths from them now being able to see the vehicle coming”.

          Have you any evidence for the assertions that the chance of increased danger to pedestrians is “small”, or that it would be “by far outweighed” in the way that you say?

    4. “This is very obvious at pedestrian refuges, many people don’t expect anyone to stop, and won’t cross until you come to a complete stop and wave”. Does anyone expect someone to stop? I would think that waiting to be waved across was very sensible behavior. I would think it very dangerous to give people an expectation that refuges are used like actual pedestrian crossings.

      1. Does anyone expect someone to stop? Yes, on more civilised streets there is an expectation that at least some drivers will let you pass. The first time I arrived here, I was surprised to see people just waiting to cross on the centre lines of main streets. I had literally never seen that before.

        (this is also the case with many manoeuvres in a car, like turning right, backing out of parking spots, trucks and buses straddling into opposite lanes when turning into a street, etc. where you may otherwise have to wait for a long time for a gap)

  7. I’ve just nearly been taken out by an impatient delivery truck turning into Durham St West so will have a good rant.
    1- AT needs to prioritise pedestrians in the CBD area – traffic isles are ok but not sufficient on their own. What is needed is proper, painted crossings at street corners and wherever there is a high number of pedestrians wanting to cross. Same for Newmarket, all suburban centres and in the proximity of schools and playgrounds.
    2- Speed limits need to be reduced – the CBD and all suburban centres should be 30km/hr, suburban areas 40km/hr, country roads without median barrier 90km/hr.
    3- AT needs to look at all bus stops and whether passengers can easily access them. Try crossing four lanes of Onewa Rd traffic to get to your bus stop or return home after a bus ride. I have written to AT several times requesting a pedestrian crossing but presume they think that car flow is more important than pedestrian safety – but then I am only guessing since they never bothered to reply.
    4- Enforcement: traffic lights cameras, speed cameras, police on the road….
    5- Education to address some of the issues around driver arrogance, sense of entitlement…

    Let’s hope that the Government’s initiative on safety gets the ball rolling.

  8. A mixture of issues here:
    – Increasing congestion makes driver impatient and rush, causing mistakes
    – City has more and more pedestrians, so more pedestrians are involved in crash
    – SUV become popular, and SUV is more dangerous to pedestrians
    – More people cycle, so more cyclist get hit
    – The traffic rules favor car other than pedestrians and cyclist safety. For example cars starting to turn should giveaway to already crossing pedestrians
    – With more pedestrians and cyclists, cars coming out from driveway and going into driveway needs to slow down – which a lot of people don’t.

    1. Agreed. The top selling vehicles in NZ are Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux 4WDs. Both are nearly 2 tonnes in mass. Large 4WDs and utilities have quite poor “aggressivity” ratings. I.e. they are the weapons of choice if you want to kill your fellow motorist or ped/cyclist. The difference is significant – about a 50% increase in injury risk for the other party. So whilst cars are getting safer for their occupants, 1/3 of the market (and growing) is the type of vehicle that is least safe for other people. Time for mass-based registrations?
      For crash risk data by vehicle make and type, see

  9. If there was anything else killing people at increasing rates (e.g. synthetic drugs) then its on the front page of the papers, an inquiry is initiated and it leads to legislative change or taxes increase on it to deter use (cigarettes).

    1. But they have to be PC and aren’t allowed to join the dots between increased numbers on the roads (due to high rates of immigration or their generally poor level of driving skills coming from places like China, India, Philippines) along with the increased truck movements to support them and increased road deaths.

      1. Actually, that truck number in the article – it isn’t any kind of statistic as presented – threw me, as I can’t tell what it meant to illustrate.

        Pinning increasing truck movements on immigration is a long bow to draw when you could put it down to:

        1. More construction
        2. More consumption by everyone generally
        3. More, smaller trucks being used to compensate for fewer deliveries per vehicle per day due to congestion (a vicious circle there!)
        4. More deliveries due to internet purchasing.

        Sure, immigration means more people, so a general scaling up of demand, but framing it as you have hides your own culpability.

        And any edge NZ drivers may have in relative skills is offset by appalling attitudes.

        1. @Tutehunga – All those examples you mentioned have increased due to immigration. Think there would be anywhere near as much construction if we hadn’t suddenly added hundreds of thousands to our population over a short space of time?
          Think those people don’t consume? (A lot seem to enjoy big BMW X5s, Range Rovers, people movers etc).
          Think they haven’t added to congestion resulting in the ability to make fewer deliveries etc?
          Increased population = more people shopping online.
          I’m not saying it’s the only cause of course. Just pointing out that it has made a large impact (excuse the pun).

        2. It’s been mentioned already regarding the ‘upsizing’ of pretty much every single vehicle type.
          But since you pointed out immigrants and SUV’s, how about the huge number of rangers, hilux’s etc that are now ‘trucks’ as apposed to ‘utes’.
          How many apprentices are jumping into these large powerful vehicles everyday, we were all young and dumb and sometimes aggressive (especially men drivers). Great to know they’re behind the wheel of bigger faster vehicles than what was happening 15-20 years ago.

        3. You are misunderstanding the primary cause in the jump in net-migration in the last few years. It is not new arrivals (although these have increased), it is New Zealanders returning from Australia or simply choosing not to go there in the first place.

          If the increase in net-migration has had a serious impact on the road toll then the problem is with New Zealand drivers.

      2. Nobody who can drive in Manila can be accused of having a poor level of driving skills. They all have the reactions of cats and can see in four directions simultaneously and play multi-user chess with their vehicle.
        It is the old guys from London such as myself that you need to worry about. The Goldcard is the most effective safety device taxpayers pay for.

      3. All Dude – some of our new migrants may not have great driving skills, but kiwi drivers display a huge sense of entitlement and very little courtesy. Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde when stuck behind a steering wheel.

  10. You should see the level of time and expense Auckland Transport has taken to justify doing nothing on busy secondary roads in South Auckland like Gray Ave in Mangere East.

    AT’s engineers completely focus on not interrupting traffic each time I’ve raised concerns about that road and the number of crashes and near misses (cars and peds). They are 100% not focused on speed reduction, safety of pedestrians and residents. I find that attitude when I compare other secondary roads in wealthier suburbs like Remuera and Grey Lynn were traffic islands, road humps are widely provided for.

  11. Why stop at the road toll? What is the acceptable number of people dying from other accidents? I read that in the US 1 person in 27,407 dies due to sharp objects. Now if we apply Vision Zero that that is clearly unacceptable. We need a ban on all sharp objects. Solid food needs to be banned as 1 in 3138 dies from choking. If we don’t set a target of zero deaths then exactly what is the acceptable number? But worst of all 1 in 4 die in their sleep. This is a crisis! We need a new Government Department funded by a big tax increase so that we can keep people awake 24/7.

    1. We all die, mfwic. But you’re being heartless. Our city has substandard dangerous transport infrastructure and that is what is killing people before their time. Whose hands do you think you’re playing into by resisting change on the nitpicking basis that zero deaths is unrealistic?

      1. Heidi I have had thirty years of sitting in meetings with people trying to figure out how to spend more on safety and trying to figure out how to spread that money in the best way. Usually all we get from the politicians above is some words and the same old allocation of money. We can now all search ‘Safe System Approach’ and replace with ‘Vision Zero’. Meanwhile a new group of bullshitters will posture and pretend they are the ones that care and try and tell everyone that the previous bunch of bullshitters were the evil people. I guess I should just shut up and not point out the fantasy of the new term and hope they allocate more cash. But bullshit is bullshit.

        1. I know. But your issue is with the neverending story of bullshit rather than with aiming for zero deaths in VZ or trying to improve the “safety of all parts of the system” in SSA, isn’t it? I reckon there’s more fun to be had in exposing the institutional inertia and bureaucratic absurdities as our civilisation declines than in attacking the good ideas that might end in a something positive actually happening. Mainly because if something positive can come out of the actions of a group of people, those people have had to work 10 times harder to make change in today’s environment than their predecessors did, and criticism of their ideas or actions just adds to the roadblocks they’re encountering.

    2. @ mfwic, The difference is that an accident with a sharp object is much more likely to have been within the affected person’s control and to involve no-one else. Like if you are working on your car and it rolls on you. We don’t even class that as a road accident.

      But if someone carelessly uses a sharp object in such a way that an innocent party gets injured by it, then yes, accountability will apply and measures should be taken to deter or prevent a recurrence.
      See the difference?

      1. Are so you want to make value judgements about blame and use that as your measure. So if someone drives a car off a road do we exclude that from the new toll or talley or whatever they want to call the death count? In the past we counted them on the basis that we try to get everyone home. But I can see merit in your new calculus harm to those who were not to blame. Finally I understand, if we find enough ways to exclude data from the count then we can eventually get the total down to zero. In the meantime a well designed intersection might still expect on average a crash rate or say 0.1 or 1 in 10 years. So what do we do about them? Build grade separated interchanges at the end of ever street?

        1. “Build grade separated interchanges at the end of ever street?”

          – No. Simply apply meaningful restrictions to road transport (principally on speed) until its casualty rate comes down to the level that we expect other industries and transport modes to achieve.

          – Oh, and stop spending huge sums on trying to make small pockets of the most dangerous mode safer (i.e. RoNS), and instead spend more on building up the safest mode (i.e. rail) to take over more of the overall transport task.

          Happily it looks like the present government gets this.

  12. If the Government and local government are serious about wanting to make roads safer and reduce the number of pedestrians being injured or killed, there needs to be a major change of focus and attitude from the current default of catering primarily for vehicles first above all others.

    If more people are expected to use public transport, particularly in busy built up urban areas like Auckland, there needs to be more infrastructure and priority given to pedestrians such as building proper zebra type pedestrian crossings across busy roads, particularly in areas where there are reasonable amounts of pedestrians such as town centre shopping areas, transport hubs and arterial routes leading to these, or children such as near parks with playgrounds.

    Zebra crossings are the best option as they give priority to pedestrians who can quickly cross and only require vehicles to stop when there are actually pedestrians waiting to cross. Traffic lights are too slow and often impatient pedestrians press the button to cross but decide to cross before getting the green man signal when no traffic is coming and end up causing vehicles to needlessly stop later when the crossing phase does activate.

    A classic example of where attitudes and focus needs to change is in Pukekohe where there is no pedestrian crossings to cater for the high number of pedestrians which walk to and from the railway station and the main street (King Street) across Stadium Drive and Massey Avenue. Also there are no pedestrian crossings across busy Edinburgh Street for pedestrians walking along the main street – with signs erected by the Franklin Local Board stating “pedestrians give way to vehicles”! The local board and AT are more concerned about vehicle traffic in the town centre than pedestrians.

    Proper zebra type pedestrian crossings need to be put in across Edinburgh Street on either side of King Street and traffic lights probably need to go in to best safely cater for both vehicles and pedestrians at the busy roundabout intersection of King Street / Stadium Drive / Manukau Road / Massey Avenue near the railway station.

  13. Many roads in New Zealand could be made a lot safer with building roundabouts at intersections, such as many European countries do, particularly busy intersections on rural arterial roads, as roundabouts by their design force traffic to slow down. At the same time roundabouts are also better for traffic flow, in that they keep the traffic flow moving – slowly but steadily and more safely.

    Auckland Transport and NZTA would do well to improve safety by installing roundabouts at busy intersections on one of New Zealand’s most dangerous State Highways (SH22) between Drury and Pukekohe at the intersections of SH1/Great South Road, Great South Road, Black Bridge Road, Glenbrook Road and Heights Road.

    The other very busy main arterial route into Pukekohe from Bombay also really needs roundabouts installed at the intersection of Mill Road / Harrisville Road, and Stadium Drive / East Street.

    1. I completely agree, particularly with the dangerous intersections mentioned in the Franklin region.

      Another particularly dangerous intersection on Mill Road is the exit from the BP service centre at Bombay. I regularly drive along this road and have nearly been taken out a few times by vehicles pulling out there. A roundabout is really needed at this busy intersection.

  14. Pippa, I agree with what you say about needing a new roading strategy. Putting that another way, NZTA’s approach to modelling is responsible for these deaths.

    When you build more roads in a place like Auckland, people drive more. Traffic is induced. When you respond to the congestion with more roads, widened intersections, widened roads, signal phasing to improve the traffic flow, every little change is doing two things:

    1/ It is decreasing safety in the built environment (eg wider roads).
    2/ It is increasing car dependency.
    3/ It is leading to desperate driver responses to congestion such as parking all over the verges and on orange dashed lines, driving faster than safe, taking risks just to try to reduce travel times.

    I know you understand this vicious cycle. My point is that NZTA and their consultants have refused to acknowledge that their roads induce traffic. They use the word induced traffic in their reports, but they do not include it in their modelling. Each project, each traffic report, each BCR is contributing to the decrease in safety and the increase in deaths. So any new roading strategy needs to start with:

    1/ No more bullshit modelling.
    2/ No more roads. No more widened roads. No more widened intersections.
    3/ Reduction of roads. Reallocation of road space to other modes, especially at intersections! Reduction of speeds and traffic flow.

    Tinkering with other concepts while building more roads to induce more traffic is pushing the proverbial uphill. That path will lead to burn out and a failed strategy.

  15. 3 pedestrian deaths in the last week is a shocking opening paragraph.
    1 Are Pedestrians road users?
    2 Should they have the right to use the road?
    3 Should children be allowed to use the road?
    5 Should pedestrians be allowed to walk on the pavement when there are no footpaths?
    6 In an urban situation where there are no footpaths should the speed limits still be 50 kph?
    7 Could someone enlighten me whether I have understood the US law that pedestrians may cross at anytime at an uncontrolled intersection and the vehicle must give way?

    1. 1-5 Yes.
      6 No.
      7 As I understand it, pedestrians can cross a side road at any time. This means a driver is having to give way to other vehicles anyway, regardless of where they are approaching from, so they simply have to give way to pedestrians too. Whereas a pedestrian can’t cross the main road at any time, as the drivers aren’t expecting to have to give way to vehicles as they drive along the main road.

      I didn’t answer initially because I thought someone else might have access to something official, but I’m hoping my conjecture is better than nothing. 🙂

  16. Thank you Pippa for your work and for this post highlighting it.

    One statistic that caught my eye is to do with vehicle safety “Half of all occupant fatalities are in vehicles more than 15 years old (used car fleet getting bigger…”

    And I have seen elsewhere that NZ’s vehicle fleet is older on average than in many other countries. I suspect that this has to do with the cost of new vehicles in comparison with incomes, but does anyone have any links to data on this? And then, is there any research around on possible links between rising inequality, and decreasing vehicle safety/increasing vehicle age?

    In a city with ever increasing housing costs, I wonder if it is getting harder for people to keep their cars fully maintained, let alone to think of replacing them with a new one. After all, if you’re struggling to pay the rent/mortgage and keep the family fed, then how on earth are you supposed to afford new tyres if they’re needed, or an upgrade to a newer/safer car?

    1. Interesting NZTA wording for the frequency of needing a WOF, too. Vehicles first registered before 2000 need a WOF every 6 months. Registered after that date they need a WOF every 12 months. Of course everyone needs to keep the car up to WOF condition at all times, and that’s always been the case. But people won’t. I wonder why they didn’t say that vehicles no older than 15 years only need a WOF yearly. As it is, that 2000 date could stay for a long time… Already that means 18-year-old cars are in the category of cars that only need a WOF yearly. Next year, it’ll be 19-year-old cars.

      Is the final answer on this that we need to design the roads assuming a much less safe vehicle than we do? Or that the cost of providing 6-monthly WOF checks is spread amongst all drivers? A way for richer drivers to subsidise poorer drivers? 🙂

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