This is a guest post from Bevan Woodward. He is the project director for SkyPath and spokesperson for Movement, an alliance of national organisations seeking safe journeys for active transport users. [email protected]

Last week Julie Anne Genter released an evaluation report on the previous Government’s road safety strategy. Prepared in 2015 by Martin Small Consulting for the Ministry of Transport, the report provides an interesting insight and critique on the internal workings of New Zealand’s road safety management – and all its key players.

It quickly becomes apparent that improvements to our road safety had stalled primarily due to the lack of political support. The report refers to staff lacking “the political mandate to undertake the detailed consultation, negotiation and persuasion to manage change in contentious safety areas” and “there was not a strong political champion for road safety”.

The report also states the sector was prone to “bursts of courage followed by periods of antipathy” and addresses key parties who need to front up. An example is Accident Compensation Corporation, described as “running hot and cold with their involvement which has been sporadic” and “could be playing a far more significant role in road safety”. The report makes a point of questioning why ACC motor vehicle levies were substantially reduced in 2015 when we could be “significantly increasing investment in road injury prevention as a means of reinvesting in the long term sustainability of the motor vehicle account.

The Police role is challenged with “New Zealand’s overall speed enforcement programme needs major reform”. The report comments that “there is a very low level of speed camera deployment in New Zealand compared with Australian jurisdictions” and “the standard enforcement tolerance of 10 km/h is well above what can be considered good practice”.

Likewise the National Road Safety Committee and the KiwiRAP partnership of the AA, Ministry of Transport and NZTA is challenged with getting on with implementation of the safer speeds programme given “Speed limits were often regarded as too high”.

The report summarises the situation: “Firmer government leadership from senior public sector executives and Ministers will be necessary and some will need to put their stamp on pivotal actions for [road safety] performance to substantially improve.

As an advocate for road safety during these years, none of this really surprised me – except to see it so clearly spelt out in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Transport. Questions need to be asked of the National Government’s Ministers of Transport and Police at the time: Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett. Are the road safety interventions described above really too contentious for them? Due to their lack action, our road trauma increased and New Zealanders have died unnecessarily.

I can only hope that our new Government delivers on its objective of safer roads by providing the requisite level of political support in the public domain.

Editors note: As of Friday morning, 398 people have died on NZ over the last 12 months. That is up from a low of 249 in February 2014 and the last time it was this high was in November 2009.

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41 comments

  1. What has happened with skypath since Downer pulled out? Has another construction company been found? When will building start and when will it be complete? Whats taking so long?
    I imagine there is no problem with funding since Labour threw $30M into the pot? (At the time Downer pulled out it was described as a $34M bridge)

      1. Yes I found that. It’s not really enabling works but an adjacent project. What I’m asking about is work on the actual bridge itself.

        1. Yes that update says pretty much nothing. We know that the government has made all the right noises about it, but the lack of news is worrying. So come on Bevan, is it still happening, what’s the next milestone, what’s the likely opening date?

  2. “” “the standard enforcement tolerance of 10 km/h is well above what can be considered good practice””” it is stupid to have a law and then permit exceptions if they are not too excessive. 10Km/h is usually 20% over the limit. Can I be 10% over the blood alcohol reading? Do we need a list of the laws we are permitted to break – it would be useful for immigrants and tourists. When I drive at 50km/h I get cars sitting on my back bumper and some dangerous over-taking.

    1. Presumably the tolerance goes back to a time when speedometers were less accurate. However even today different makes of car calibrate their speedo’s differently so your 50km/h may actually be 47km/h, while another persons may be 49km/h, hence they are sitting on your back bumper wondering why you are going less than 50.

      1. Yes, as if 50 is the target, when it’s supposed to be the limit. 🙂 Not that you’d know this from how kids are required to drive to pass their driving tests.

        1. Hmm I’ve made the mistake a while ago of reading comments on Stuff, and one of the commenters pointed out that her son failed his test because he slowed down for a pedestrian and thus created a hazard for traffic behind him.

          Which is of course completely bonkers and rather implausible. And yet it is a quite plausible explanation of why people drive the way they do over here.

          1. “Don’t stop for the pedestrian or you might make the drivers behind you do something silly”. This is a direct quote from an otherwise excellent driving instructor to my son as he was approaching a pedestrian on a median strip. I was in the back seat, and had to say nothing. This was the classic situation that the pedestrian had started to cross the road before my son had driven into the location, and should have been able to continue crossing. Yet he was being directed to ignore the pedestrian and leave her on the road.

          2. Yes my daughter passed a test but was reprimanded for slowing to a cautious speed of 30-40kms/hr while going through a narrow section of road where there were cars parked all the way down on both sides (Turners car auction was on I think) and I’m guessing peds on both side getting in and out of cars likely.

          3. @Heidi – I think slowing would be fine, but stopping in Auckland in that situation – a driver behind would likely pull out suddenly (not seeing the ped) and pass on the median, which would be more dangerous to the ped, or have I misread the situation?

          4. Yes, that’s a situation this instructor prepares the students for directly. This street – empty in streeview from 2015, is now jammed with cars both sides all day:

            https://www.google.com/maps/@-36.8229613,174.6142826,3a,75y,272.63h,78.53t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s8XGUR9mLOHsj_arhIaWxpg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

            (Hide and Ride and staff parking for Westgate, I believe). So it’s where he takes them to practise driving fast when it feels wrong to do so. Appalling, it’s training to decrease pedestrian safety.

          5. @ Grant, you’ve read the situation correctly. And it’s how most drivers interpret it. And it’s wrong. If you start to cross a road because the way is clear, you have a right to continue crossing it. Anyone driving has a responsibility to stop for another road user, and a responsibility to not leave a pedestrian stranded in the middle of the road. A median strip is no protection. Drivers overtaking a stopped vehicle have a responsibility to expect that one of the reasons for the stop may be a pedestrian, and proceed only if they can tell what’s happening.

            As it is, pedestrians are required to scurry, change direction, walk along the median, go back, or avoid crossing where otherwise it should be fine. No surprise to me at all that our pedestrian DSI has gone up 44 % in the last 8 years.

          6. When I did my test, my instructor had told me that if I drove along Parnell Rd faster than about 30km/hr I would fail as I would be travelling too fast for the conditions (many parked cars, pedestrians running across the rd etc). I followed those instructions and passed the test with no issues. That was back in the mid nineties. It is disturbing if they’re now requiring people to drive faster than is safe in these sorts of situations.

          7. I wonder if the change has been gradual or as a result of someone with a bee in their bonnet. In any case, the AA Driving Test Ezy book says: “When possible, keep your speed constant at or near the speed limit, but do not go 5 kph over the speed limit.” And “If you over-emphasize safety by travelling more than 5 kph under the speed limit when unnecessary, you may cause other road users to become impatient with you… This style of driving ccan lead to faults building up against you which could eventually result in a failed test.”

          8. If I drove along Parnell Rd faster than about 30km/hr I would fail → sanity

            Reprimanded for slowing to a cautious speed of 30-40kms/hr while going through a narrow section of road… That is bad. It’s a good idea to slow down, there are a few ways to get someone killed if you drive close to a row of parked cars at speed. Doubly so for inexperienced drivers.

            And stopping for pedestrians, the observation that another car may swerve around you is just tragic. At least the pedestrian refuges stop cars overtaking you on the meridian.

          9. I know someone who failed their P test, at least in part for driving too slowly I think along the road Heidi highlighted. It was maybe 3-4 years ago but the road did have quite a few cars along it so they slowed down but it was considered a fault. Their instructor originally from the UK agreed with their decision/disagreed with the testing officer.

            I wonder if one of the reasons for the strictness about not being too slow arises due to the change to make the P tester harder to improve safety. It’s mean an increase focus on things like this but unfortunately taken too far. And also just because a driver is willing to drive faster doesn’t mean they are ready for it i.e. a driver might be willing to drive fast but may also do so in places where it’s not appropriate or is not able to properly gauge a safe speed and there’s no guarantee this will be picked up in the test.

            About the pedestrian thing, IMO it’s complicated. Yes in an ideal world Heidi’s suggestions apply. But the problem is we don’t live in one and change probably has to be gradual. So it may be necessary for the instructor to teach that, while also teaching that if someone does slow down, don’t do anything stupid. Consider there may be a pedestrian or something you can’t see. Enforcement etc will also help. Once enough of our driving population are not idiots, then we can change over and hopefully everyone will come with them.

            In the meantime, I think Grant has a point. While leaving the pedestrian on a median isn’t the safest thing, exposing them to the risk the driver behind is going to do something stupid could easily be a worse outcome.

          10. Yes think they are concerned u won’t travel at near the limit for a certain percent of the test. It’s i the test guidelines for drivers. Designed to weed out those in confident drivers.

          11. I think what we’ve seen is gradual change in the wrong direction, leading to a situation where more than 1 pedestrian is being hit per day in Auckland, 1 in 3 killed or seriously injured, I know softly softly seems like it’s balanced, but given the vulnerability issue here, I don’t think it’s even ethical to aim for a gradual change back to sanity.

            I would propose a sudden change, partly because the proposed law change to give priority to pedestrians crossing side roads at an intersection will result in more accidents if it isn’t accompanied by a huge mindset shift. At the same time as the law change, I would recommend a wholescale change of speed limits on local roads, as will probably be coming anyway. I think they’ll be more successful if brought in all at the same time rather than dripfed.

            I would propose a huge advertising campaign explaining how the pedestrian crossing rule works in other places, why it’s necessary here, and also drumming home the rights of pedestrians as road users. Examples could be given of where the pedestrians are currently not being treated fairly and what drivers should be doing instead. And that could all be accompanied by a large funding increase to improve the physical infrastructure to better support the active modes.

            And a healthy dose of re-prioritising the focus for driver licensing could happen at the same time.

          12. @Heidi Don’t know if you’ll see this but having been to Lazurte Road in Westgate recently, it definitely does seem dangerous to drive fast. Are people being taught to at least drive roughly in the centre when doing this? Or at they being taught to do so while keeping close to the car on the left? I presume they’re at least allowed to slow down if the end up with another car coming the opposite direction and cars parked on both sides?

          1. No I am pretty sure it is the target that the RAF used to put on their planes to help the Germans.

    2. I suspect the closer the police get to enforcing the speed limit, the more dramatic the increase in people that challenge the tickets and waste a huge amount of police time in court.

  3. Thanks Bevan! So the question must be asked – why was this 2015 report only released now? Was it even legal that Bridges didn’t release it earlier?

    Yes to a stronger mandate for the changes that have to be made. Thanks Julie-Anne. Keep it up. As far as I’m concerned, you’re saving lives where your predecessors were causing deaths. May you live long and sleep easy.

    One pivotal action I hope to see soon is a raft of lower speed limits across both rural open roads and local urban roads. Another is a mandate to roading authorities to enforce regulations such as around parking, with legal action taken if a roading authority doesn’t step up to do so.

  4. “The Police role is challenged with “New Zealand’s overall speed enforcement programme needs major reform”. The report comments that “there is a very low level of speed camera deployment in New Zealand compared with Australian jurisdictions” and “the standard enforcement tolerance of 10 km/h is well above what can be considered good practice”.”……really…..? Because Australia is a shining beacon of light on road safety /sarc

    Australia is a nanny state when it comes to road policing – about the only thing they do better than our police is they are more likely to enforce the law about keeping left unless passing (which ours seem incapable of doing – many apparently don’t even know that it is a law). Australia doesn’t have very good road toll statistics (despite cars there generally being several years younger than ours, or better quality, straighter roads with more divided highways and generally better weather driving conditions).
    Meanwhile countries similar to ours – UK for example have much lower road tolls (even with bad weather and things like snow etc). Yet over there they don’t hide speed cameras in bushes like Australia but have them clearly marked in bright yellow signs (and don’t have as many – and many aren’t switched on), while their police don’t generally bother enforcing speed limits on the motorways (speed limit 112km/h while almost all drivers there do at least 125km/h if not 135km/h).

    1. Really, I remember the UK having tons of speed cameras. Like one every mile. You have to have lots if you are going to tell people where they are.
      My guess is that the UK has a low road toll due to it mainly being richer and older people who can afford to drive. Most young people, pissed people, drugged people, etc are on PT.

      1. No Jimbo, I live in Buckinghamshire and drive to work at Heathrow daily, AKLDUDE is spot on, although I do see significant numbers of drink drivers on the roads here, especially Sunday mornings on my way to work.

        I drive at 70-80 mph on the M40 and M25 and am often the slowest vehicle on it.

        I think Auckland could really benefit from the UK’s Smart Motorways as found on the M25 and M4 etc. Would really help to control traffic in the mornings and evenings and allow controlled speed changes.

    2. “Australia doesn’t have very good road toll statistics” – really?
      2017 road deaths in Australia were 1,225.
      2017 in NZ it was 380.
      OZ population 2017 – 24,500,000
      NZ population 2017 – about 4,800,000.
      So with a population more than 5 times greater than NZ, their road toll would have to be more than 1,900 to “match” NZ.
      In Australia almost 700 people are alive today who would be dead if they lived here.
      Or to put it another way, 130 people have died in NZ due to us failing to match Australia’s safety efforts. 130 deaths is one hell of a lot of misery.
      In short, you are totally and completely, wrong.

      1. Don’t want to get into this debate other than to point that a quick search finds:
        2,838 of which 1,486 are active for UK speed cameras
        http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41869134

        Also Australia’s road toll may be lower than ours, but UK seems even lower relatively.

        In case it seems like I’m actually in favour of AKLDUDE, I’m not really. I find in these sort of debates people tend to pull out their own favourite examples and try to demonstrate that this is the way forward without considering all the other differences or what matters, and how they got there etc.

        For example, does the UK have more police officer enforcement of speeds? Of course enforcement isn’t that necessary if most of the population obeys the speed limit anyway and I drove there and everyone was speeding isn’t exactly good evidence. Or instead of comparing to the UK, you could compare to Sweden. I don’t know how their speed limit enforcement is compared to elsewhere (http://www.speedingeurope.com/sweden/ has someone claiming they sped a lot but this may have been in rural areas). It does seem they theoretically at least enforce anything about the limit. And also 31 km/h more (or 21km/h more in 30 km/h areas) is an automatic suspension of licence compared to the 41 km/h here. It also could result in the infamous day fine. Of course Sweden is also the famous example of low speed limits in urban areas.

        Sadly I think many would agree that if you tried introducing a 30 km/h limit in a lot of urban areas in Auckland at the current time, a large part of the country would be up in arms.

  5. How about opening up speed enforcement to third parties? We provide the capital for speed cameras, purchase cameras that are regularly certified for accuracy, and then get a 50% share of the revenue from tickets that we issue.

    We could then place cameras explicitly for the purpose of revenue gathering. College Hill would be very profitable.

  6. One “easy” fix that gets to me is place more speed limit signs around so that they are seen more frequently.

    A simple fix that costs little.

    One would imaging though that NZTA would say “too much roadside clutter”

    One example would be Great South Road where there could be prominent, easily seen, 50 or 60 (as appropriate) signs

  7. Lowering speed becomes far more realistic as EVs roll out; you’re not depending on gearboxes or other things that have a major effect on how slowly vehicles can travel.

    My favourite is car parks with 10 kmh or 5kmh; most needle speedos start at 20kmh. Entirely useless.

    1. It will be easier than with a manual car anyway. Tended to use 4th for fuel economy in the past on the flat on an arterial road say, but that tends to put u up into too faster speed and less control.

  8. I found that Australian drivers are more law abiding than our NZ counterparts and that you really need to watch the road signs especially for school zones.
    As for driving to the conditions and your capabilities, it is important for new drivers to excercise caution and to be encouraged in the “defensive Driving” attitude.
    Any vehicle behind you is able to stop in the space they have.
    It makes no sense to penalize defensive driving at the testing time.

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