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Road Safety in the Next Decade - Speech Minister

Road Safety in the Next Decade
Speech by the Honourable Mark Gosche
Minister of Transport
To the AA Driver Education Foundation Annual Conference
Thursday 16 March 2000


I wish to first thank the AA Driver Education Foundation for organising this 3rd Annual Driver Education and Awareness Conference and for inviting me to present the opening address.

I would like to welcome all of you to this conference and thank chairman Rob Lester, Chief Executive Officer Barry Dow and international speakers Hans Mattson from Sweden and Brian Fildes from Australia.

I understand that the previous two conferences organised by the Foundation have offered an invaluable forum for not only informing participants of recent developments in the area of road safety and driver education, but more importantly for exchanging knowledge and experiences, open discussion and debate and developing and renewing networking contacts.

Since the last conference there have been changes to the motoring environment that have had a far-reaching impacts on all drivers.

These changes were brought about by the enactment of the Land Transport Act in December 1998 and the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule which took effect in May 1999.

The Act introduced a package of road safety measures which included the new photo driver licence, mandatory licence carriage, the introduction of tough new roadside sanctions (that is mandatory 28-day licence suspension and vehicle impoundment) and higher penalties for serious and repeat traffic offending.

The Rule, on the other hand, specifically introduced a new driver licensing system. This comprises a range of changes affecting new drivers entering the driver licensing system for the first time, drivers who wish to engage in an activity from which they can make a living (e.g. driving instructors and testing officers), older drivers who have been in the system for a very long time and overseas licence holders who are converting to a New Zealand licence to allow them to continue driving in New Zealand.

All the above are important changes.

Many of you have offered invaluable input into these changes during the consultation process of the Rule.

I wish to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to you for your contributions.

As a member of the Select Committee that considered submissions made on the Land Transport Bill, I can testify to the fact that putting in place the legislative framework for the new system was no mean task.

But what we now have ahead of us is, in my view, an even bigger task – and that is to make sure everything works as intended and that we get the safety gains we expect.

This will call for some fine-tuning and changes as we move forward.

I am pleased to note that later this morning Mr Alan Woodside from the Land Transport Safety Authority will be updating you what’s happening on the driver-licensing front.

I wish to now move on to the theme of this conference – Changing a National Disgrace.

In terms of New Zealand’s road safety record, I’m sure that all of you will agree with me that we still have much to do.

Every year over 500 people are killed on our roads; this equates to one person being killed about every 17 hours. Every death and serious injury on the roads is another tragedy.

This Government maintains that the current road toll is unacceptably high. We must bring the road toll down.

Having said that, I stress that we should not ignore the fact that we have made significant road safety progress in recent years.

On entering office as the Minister of Transport, I was encouraged to learn that the last decade has seen improvements in New Zealand’s road safety performance.
 The road toll has reduced from a peak of 795 killed on our roads in 1987 to 509 road deaths last year. That corresponds to a 36% improvement.
 The number of serious injuries has decreased from 5,177 in 1987 to 2400 in 1998 – a 54% improvement.
 And this has been achieved despite traffic growth, which is increasing at an average rate of 3.3% per year.
 A measure which takes into account the number or vehicles on the road, the ‘number of deaths per 10,000 vehicles’, show that New Zealand has achieved a 46% improvement in the number of road deaths since 1987.

However the challenge for us now is to maintain this momentum. The big question is how do we build on recent achievements to ensure the situation continues to improve?

In the very near future I hope to release for consultation a draft strategy with proposals for achieving improved road safety outcomes, including targets for New Zealand to aim for in the next decade.
 Officials are presently doing a lot of work on the types of road safety targets that might be feasible by 2010.
 But the pathways for getting there are open. I want to consult on those options.
 In any case, I particularly want to see the new Road Safety Strategy address the three key areas of the Roading Environment, the Vehicle Fleet, and the Road User.

The Roading Environment

Road factors as reported by the Police Officers attending crashes contribute to about 15% of all fatal road crashes.
 This may not seem like a significant contribution to crashes. But there is no doubt that safe roads are essential and often protect bad drivers from harming themselves and others, so that the benefit of safe roads can be higher than the degree of involvement as a contributing factor to crashes suggests.
 Improving the roading environment can reduce the number of crashes and the severity of the crashes, whatever the cause of the crash.
 Therefore it is very important that we look at the state of our roads and address their contribution to road safety.

I am very aware of the different types of roads that make up the roading network in New Zealand.

Different types of roads are associated with different levels of risk, and therefore different types of safety intervention are needed for each road type. This is something that will be considered in New Zealand’s Road Safety Strategy to 2010.

Vehicle safety is also extremely important for road safety. Improvements to the safety of vehicles will play an important role in helping us reduce the road toll and the trauma associated with road crashes in the next decade.

Police report that vehicle factors contribute to 8% of fatal crashes. But it should be remembered that both roading and vehicle factors may be under-reported as they are difficult for police officers to ascertain at the scene of a crash.

There is no doubt that improving vehicle safety can bring about more impressive gains to reducing the road toll than the 8% contributing factor to fatal crashes figure suggests.

Modern cars are safer than old ones, and it is expected that cars built in the next decade will continue to improve in safety.

It is not so much that a modern vehicle is less likely to crash but that, if it does, its occupants are less likely to die or be seriously injured.

Our future Road Safety Strategy should encourage advances in this area.

And now the area that most of you have a special interest in.

The Road User

Human factors reportedly contribute to 95% of all fatal road crashes. This shows that in most crashes driver error is a factor.

However this does not necessarily mean that all of our road safety interventions should be aimed at road users.
It should be remembered that:
 Humans will always make mistakes.
 Driver error can also relate to drivers going beyond the safety design standards of the roading environment and the safety design standards of their vehicles.

Road safety interventions aimed at modifying driver behaviour, must remain however, an integral part of our future strategy.

Speeding and drink driving are still the biggest contributors to crashes. In 1998/99 speed and drink driving accounted for 44% of all road deaths and 31% of all casualties.

The use of safety belts would save many lives each year. In the 12 months to December 1999, 50 people were killed whose lives would have been saved if they had used the safety belts that were available to them in their vehicles, according to police officers attending the accident scenes.

There are obviously still huge gains to be made by concentrating on these 3 areas of human and driver behaviour.

However the challenge will be to also address the other factors which contribute to crashes.

This is the 3rd Annual Driver Education and Awareness Conference.

So, what is the role of driver education in reducing the road toll?

The terms ‘driver training’ and ‘driver education’ have often been used interchangeably.

I understand that, strictly speaking, ‘driver training’ relates to car control or ‘car craft’ – that is, the techniques of handling a vehicle in traffic.

‘Driver education’ (or ‘road craft’), however, is the teaching of safe driving behaviour, and the improvement of knowledge, attitudes and behaviour through a planned educational process.

Driver education should continue throughout a persons driving career.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

Once a licence is obtained, there remains little incentive for further driver education.

Additional and even greater incentives will be needed to provide motivation for continuous improvement and safe driving. When I visited Deka in Rotorua recently and saw the world done there with professional drivers it showed theat this concept was a good one to harness.

In recent months, fears have been expressed concerning the new driver licensing system and the role of driver education.

It has been said that the incentives for driver training among novice drivers have been removed.

This relates to the introduction of a minimum six-month period in the learner licence phase and the removal of time reduction options following completion of a driver-training course in the learner phase.

I am interested in hearing your views on this matter as it is worthy of continued debate.

The new driver licensing system is in its early days – I congratulate all those who worked so hard in its development and implementation. I am sure that it needs time to settle in but if there are improvements to be made we should move accordingly.

There are new and existing programmes that you will be able to focus on.

The Street Talk Driver Education Course seeks to provide young novice drivers with some skills of self-understanding and self-management, and to assist them to be risk-averse and to continue as safe drivers throughout their driving careers.

Next week I am visiting the Manukau Urban Maori Authority. I look forward to seeing first hand the work that will be done by June Jackson and her people at the authority. It will give me a firsthand view of what can and will be done.

I would now like to quickly mention a few things about the more robust driver-testing regime and in particular the new full licence test.

Drivers applying for a full licence must now pass this new practical test, which is twice as long as the restricted licence test and focuses on hazard perception and risk avoidance skills.

A very important point that I would like to stress here is that the new test is based on international research evidence and an analysis of New Zealand crash data over a period of six years.

The analysis identified the types of crashes involving young drivers and the factors contributing to these crashes.

The test has been designed to focus on the ability of young drivers to safely handle driving situations that present the greatest crash risk to them on our roads.

In summary, these changes lay the platform for the development of a rigorous new Road Safety Strategy.

As the new Minister of Transport I look forward to working with you in the development of that strategy and believe that, with a combined effort we can make further inroads into the level of trauma on our roads.

I will be willing to explore new innovations, new ideas, new ways to add to the dramatic changes of these past few years.

I am keen to promote the education of communities on road safety issues and with the help of all of you gathered here for this conference, I believe we can continue to progress in the fight to lower our road toll.

I know that you will have an interesting conference – one that will assist us in government to help in our deliberations.

I would like to again welcome all of the speakers – especially the key note speaker from Sweden and trust that this will both be a stimulating and enjoyable occasion.

I would like to officially declare this conference open.


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