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UC Researcher Says Time To Review Vehicle Testing Governance

UC Researcher Says Time To Review The Governance System For Vehicle Testing in NZ

February 5, 2013

A University of Canterbury UC) researcher says it might be time to review the governance system for vehicle testing in New Zealand to achieve better road safety with less vehicle testing.

A Ministry of Transport report shows New Zealand motorists drive a car that is on average 13 years old and face road-testing more often than drivers in other countries.

A UC management expert Dr Pavel Castka says vehicle testing does not significantly impact on road fatalities.

``The issue is not the frequency of testing but the quality and consistency of testing. There are so many firms that provide warrant of fitness tests. Are they really consistent? Is the stringency of the system being maintained?

``I do not have the data from New Zealand, yet the research in the US has shown that the increased competition in vehicle testing - and increased number of entities that provide vehicle testing - led to a more lenient system over time. So maybe, it is a time to review the governance system for vehicle testing in New Zealand to achieve better road safety with less vehicle testing.’’

Another UC lecturer who researches transport, Dr Glen Koorey, said New Zealand has a culture of not valuing the importance of road safety.

``What other industry in the country allows you to routinely kill 400 people a year and barely raise an eyelid? Meanwhile, we’re planning to spend $12 billion on motorways to attempt to address congestion that supposedly costs us less than $2 billion a year, while we invest a pittance each year on road safety that costs this country over $4 billion each year,’’ Dr Koorey said.

He said older cars have an effect on the survivability of any crash. Modern cars had features such as airbags and crumple zones that allowed some people to almost walk away from a serious collision.

A 1999 model car would behave quite differently to a 2009 model of the same car. Therefore, encouraging people to upgrade to newer, safer cars paid important dividends, more so than frequent maintenance checks, he said.

``Motor vehicle faults themselves contribute a very small proportion to the total number of crashes – three percent of crashes have some contribution by vehicles. Most are a consequence of driver behaviour or mistakes, or a poor or misleading road environment.

``In the bigger scheme of things, a change of a few vehicle-related crashes here and there are negligible within the thousands of serious crashes we have every year. If the year-2000 cut-off means that many people switch to a newer car model then the injury savings from that will far outweigh any increases from a reduced testing regime for modern cars.

``People would also easily recoup any losses by introducing other proven road safety treatments from overseas such as lowering the drink drive limit or introducing more lower speed zones,’’ Dr Koorey said.


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