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Education programme takes top road safety award

For immediate release – 23 September 2008

Education programme based on tragic crash takes out top road safety award

It claimed one life and ripped apart a small community, but a tragic road crash also inspired an educational initiative that today won the Premier Award in the latest New Zealand Road Safety Innovation and Achievement Awards.

‘Thirsty Thursday – A Lethal Cocktail’ is a multi-pronged approach to delivering road safety messages, developed by Clutha District Council and Dunedin City Council.

The programme is based around a December 2005 fatal crash involving three cars and 12 teenagers from the small South Otago town of Milton. One person died, two were seriously injured and seven others were taken to hospital from the crash that Police later described as “a bomb site”.

Henriette Rawlings, Dunedin City Council Community Road Safety Advisor, says ‘Thirsty Thursday - A Lethal Cocktail’ was developed as a response to the need to find alternative ways of getting the road safety message across to students.

“The Milton crash contained all the elements we needed to address – excessive speed, drugs and alcohol, non-wearing of seatbelts, the use of unroadworthy vehicles and young and novice driver inexperience. Our aim was for students to personalise the possible consequences of such risky behaviour and to get them to change their attitudes.”

The programme involves a play that re-enacts events leading up to the crash, a discussion with the parents of the 17-year-old killed in the crash, photos of the crash scene and one of the actual cars involved.

Five other entries in the annual road safety awards were also recognised at a ceremony hosted in Wellington today by Hon Harry Duynhoven, Minister for Transport Safety.

The ‘Organisations’ category went to Christchurch-based trucking firm Alexander Petroleum Services Ltd for a range of measures aimed at reducing driver speed, fuel consumption and carbon emissions, while improving the company’s safety and operational performance.

Initiatives included adjusting driver’s workloads, developing pre-approved journey management plans for all deliveries, speed-limiting vehicles to 88km/h, and educating drivers about the risks of unsafe and illegal driving practices.

The Metservice won the ‘Road Engineering’ category for a series of high-tech automated weather stations installed in the often inhospitable Central Plateau region.

The first of its kind in New Zealand, the Road Weather Network provides real-time weather observations and forecasts of up to 65 hours in advance from 12 key locations around the Central Plateau, helping roading contractors to plan road maintenance work around the weather, minimising road disruptions, increasing road safety and ultimately saving people’s lives.

The ‘Education’ category was won by a road safety initiative from six New Plymouth primary schools and associated partners. Led entirely by 9 to12-year-olds, Kids Involved in Driving Down Speed (KIDDS) is aimed at promoting road safety around schools through increasing public awareness and generating a community response.

Speed, congestion and traffic volumes proved to be key issues, while others included illegal double parking and blocking of driveways by parents. The KIDDS project proposed solutions such as reducing speed limits, improving signage and increasing parking spaces, and educating parents and caregivers on where they could and couldn’t park.

Meanwhile, two entries were awarded Merit Awards this year: the world’s first manual for safely building and modifying a sports car or hot rod, and a daily newspaper that ran a series of hard-hitting articles aimed at raising awareness of road safety issues.

The New Zealand Hobby Car Technical Manual was initiated, written and published by Aucklander Tony Johnson in response to legislative changes related to safety standards for modified vehicles. Widely known as ‘the Car Builder’s Bible’, the manual is aimed at helping hobby car enthusiasts to construct and modify their vehicles safely and legally.

It took Tony six years of his own time to develop the manual, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world.

The Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper was recognised for its ’Keeping the Bay Safe’ campaign which championed road safety by creating a link between the road toll and drivers’ behaviour on the roads. A cornerstone of the campaign was to focus on the people behind the statistics, with reporters researching crashes and interviewing victims and their families, road safety and school educators, police education and traffic safety personnel and emergency services workers.

For details on all the winning entries, visit

Background information about the Awards
The Road Safety Trust Road Safety Innovation and Achievement Awards programme is funded by the Road Safety Trust and administered by the NZ Transport Agency. The awards organising committee includes representatives from the New Zealand Automobile Association, New Zealand Police, ACC, NZ Transport Agency and the Road Safety Trust.

There are five categories, plus a Premier Award. All entries were evaluated by a three-member expert judging panel comprised of: Rob Robinson (former Police Commissioner who spent 30 years in the Police force, the last six as Commissioner), Ian James (formerly a senior member of the Road Policing unit, traffic officer and head of the Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit) and Bill Frith (former head of Research and Statistics group at the Ministry of Transport).


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