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Reform to save more lives on our roads

For immediate release: 7 April 2004

Reform to save more lives on our roads

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) is today launching its revised trauma policies which it believes could save up to 600 road-related deaths in New Zealand and Australia each year.

Drink driving, speeding, vehicle safety and testing for drugs other than alcohol are areas of transport legislation which the RACS is calling on the New Zealand Government to reform in a bid to reduce deaths on the roads.

President of the College, Anne Kolbe said legislative reform was vital to coincide with the World Health Organisation’s World Road Trauma Day, which this year carries the message “road safety is no accident”.

“Over 462 kiwis have died in the past year as a result of road accidents. This is a national tragedy and challenges everyone in the community to support every initiative to prevent these deaths.

“World Trauma Day serves as a reminder that, although New Zealand and Australia have an enviable record in reducing road trauma, much more can be done to reduce the nation’s road toll and improve trauma outcomes.

“As developing countries promote the messages the RACS Trauma Committee developed in the 70s and 80s, such as wearing seat belts, enforcing speed limits and helmet wearing, road tolls have been decreasing.

“However, while the road tolls in both countries have steadily declined over the last 30 years, we have reached a plateau over the last six or seven years. By instituting legislative change and by more aggressively targeting drink driving and speeding and improving vehicle safety we could reduce trauma.”

Mrs Kolbe said that trauma is the single greatest cause of both death and severe disability in people under the age of 40 years in both countries - road trauma accounts for approximately 50 per cent of these deaths.

“This has enormous repercussions for our families, let alone the dramatic economic effects this has on our most productive age group.

“Between 2000 and 2002 New Zealand had 342 alcohol related road deaths. Research in the US shows that under 2.5 per cent of those people required to use anti-alcohol interlock ignition systems re-offend during the first year. This compares with over 6.5 per cent who received other restrictions. In this case, the College’s revised trauma policy recommends that the vehicles of those returning to driving be fitted with an alcohol ignition interlock.

“Car manufacturers can also play a role in reducing road accidents in New Zealand. We are calling on the governments to legislate that all vehicles be fitted with central high mounted rear brake lights at the time of registration or renewal thereof, and that all new vehicles be fitted with dual front and side impact air bags.

“Research has shown that central high-mounted rear brake lights can reduce rear end collisions by up to 50 per cent as well as the associated injuries and costs. Similarly, research into airbags suggest up to 60 per cent less harm to occupants of those vehicles where some airbags are fitted,” Mrs Kolbe said.

Mrs Kolbe said that engaging communities to work together will impact significantly on road safety.

“The College is also working with the Australian and the New Zealand Orthopaedic Associations to target road trauma prevention and to improve care for trauma patients.”

ENDS

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