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Road safety fitting focus for today's Health Day

Road safety fitting focus for today's World Health Day

There could hardly be a more fitting focus for this year's World Health Day than road safety, says ACC chief executive Garry Wilson.

"If you want to measure the suffering caused by road injuries, the $334 million paid out to support road victims by ACC last year provides a sombre yardstick," he said.

The World Health Organisation chose road safety for this year's World Health Day, noting that road collisions kill more than 1.2 million people a year.

In New Zealand, ACC meets the cost of all medical treatment and rehabilitation of all road injury victims. Road-related injuries account for around 45 percent of the open serious injury claims managed by ACC.

"The roads also produce a very high number of very serious injuries," Mr Wilson said.

"At the end of last year, one of these injuries was assessed as having a lifetime cost greater than $10 million and a further 153 will cost more than $5 million each," he said.

The cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation and compensation for injuries on New Zealand roads is met from ACC's Motor Vehicle Account which is funded by motor vehicle licensing levies and a levy on petrol.

In the 2003 financial year, ACC paid $8.5 million just for ambulances, air ambulances and to get people to treatment.

ACC also provided $39 million to meet the cost of treating people injured on the roads in the public health system, and $63 million for social rehabilitation.

Payments for weekly compensation came to $160 million.

"Sadly, the huge financial cost provides nothing like a true picture of the misery caused by road injuries," Mr Wilson said.

"The grief, anger and pain of being seriously injured is completely immeasurable," he said.

"People with serious injuries may have to learn how to cope without limbs, or with someone managing their bodily functions, from washing to going to the toilet."

To combat the road toll, ACC has collaborated with Police and the Land Transport Safety Authority, Plunket and other parties to encourage drivers to wear safety belts, avoid drink-driving and not to speed.

Initiatives such as the ACC Stop Bus drink-drive programme, child safety belt campaigns and ACC speed detection trailers, which tell drivers to slow down when they are travelling too fast, have helped to substantially reduce the road toll over the last three to four years.

ACC and Police have just begun a pilot unmarked patrol car campaign in Otago and Southland targeting rural drink-drivers, a group which has tended to ignore anti drink-driving campaigns.

In recent months, ACC and LTSA have jointly developed Practice and DriveSmart, two initiatives aimed at giving young and novice drivers more supervised practical driving experience.

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