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Canterbury Regional Road Safety Forum - Speech

Hon Judith Tizard MP
Associate Minister of Transport
MP Auckland Central

Friday, 16 June 2000
10.45 am


Canterbury Regional Road Safety Forum

Fairway Lounge,
Russley Golf Course,
CHRISTCHURCH

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. I would like to start off by acknowledging the many people in this audience who have given large amounts of time to improve road safety. Road safety work is very dependent on highly motivated volunteers such as you. Producing a safer road environment is a community effort. I can assure you that this fact is not lost on the Government.

In fact, we acknowledge community work on road safety as an important corner stone in the Government’s proposal on the direction for road safety in the future. Last week the Minister of Transport announced that this Government is doubling the money to community funding as there is at present.

Your voice deserves to be listened to and I value the opportunity to be here today to hear your views first hand.


The Road toll in New Zealand

Around 500 people are killed on New Zealand roads each year. This means, on average, one person is killed every 17 hours and one person is admitted to hospital as the result of a road crash every 84 minutes.

Out of the OECD countries, New Zealand ranks 15th in terms of deaths per 100,000 people – falling well behind countries like Sweden, Italy and Australia.

Sweden has consistently had one of the lowest road tolls in the world, measured in annual deaths per 100,000 people. New Zealand would have to improve its record by 45% to achieve safety levels comparable to those in Sweden. Even achieving Australian safety levels would require a substantial 20% reduction in New Zealand’s road toll.

Speed is now the greatest contributing factor in road crashes in New Zealand. Even where speed is not a contributing factor to a crash, pre-crash speeds are a major determinant to the severity of any resulting injuries.

This is best illustrated when you consider the following facts: You are twice as likely to die if you crash at 120 km/h than at 100 km/h. And you are four times as likely to die if you crash at 130 km/h than at 100 km/h. This will probably not come as any great surprise to you in this room.

It may get you thinking, however, as I understand “speed creep” is a local problem in Canterbury. Over the five-year period from 1993 to1998 there was an increase of 2 km/h a year. By 1998, mean speeds on Canterbury’s rural roads were 105 km/h.

Over the last five years in the Canterbury region 37% of fatalities have been attributed to speed. This is higher than for any other factor. In Canterbury, speed is a much bigger problem than alcohol.


Local initiatives to combat speed problem

I am pleased to note that Canterbury local authorities have not been complacent about this problem.

The Christchurch City Council has instigated a number of local initiatives to combat the speed problem. There is a variable speed limit trial which is currently being conducted and this month there is to be a red light camera trial.

I will be very interested to hear of the outcomes of these trials once they have been concluded, as I am sure the Minister will be.


Current Government initiatives

The Government is very aware that we can’t afford to be complacent about the carnage on our roads. Our current strategy for reducing deaths and injuries on New Zealand roads involves eight interlocking elements:

- Targeting our efforts to the areas of highest risk where the greatest gains can be made;

- Improving the standard of drivers on the road through driver education, testing and licensing;

- Police enforcement;

- Supporting the Police’s enforcement initiatives with advertising;

- Educating at-risk groups;

- Working with the community, local government, and the transport
industry;

- Ensuring the quality of vehicles on the road does not compromise safety;

- Working with road-controlling authorities to improve the quality of the roading network;


You are probably wondering: where does speeding fit as an issue within this overall framework? This can best be explained under the first topic I mentioned: targeting efforts to the areas of highest risk where the greatest gains can be made.

Under these criteria, speeding is judged as a priority issue matched only by drink-driving.


Government direction for road safety in the future


There is no doubt 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 deaths last year. That is a 36% improvement. Also, the number of serious injuries has decreased by 54%.

This is quite impressive when you consider that, at the same time, there has been traffic growth of about 4% a year.

Despite these improvements, generally, we still have a long way to go. The Government believes the road toll is unacceptably high and that we have to make New Zealand’s roads safer.

The question is: How do we build on recent achievements to ensure the situation continues to improve?


Reaching road safety goals for 2001


As part of the answer to that question the Transport Minister Mark Gosche and Police Minister George Hawkins last week announced a package of initiatives that seeks to improve road safety to the level agreed by the Government in the 1995 National Road Safety Plan.

As part of the package, we will spend more than $152 million on a comprehensive road safety package that will see a greater emphasis on road safety education and a dedicated traffic patrol on our state highways.

We see this as an investment. We are investing in saving lives; we are investing in changing attitudes to road safety. And in doing so we are investing in our country’s future.


Highway Patrol

The proposal to introduce a state highway patrol consisting of 225 dedicated officers in 2001 recognises that 39% of all social cost related to road crashes is borne on the state highway network.

Allocating police resources to these types of roads will in the short and medium term lead to significant reductions in road trauma on state highways.

Highway patrols will be distinctive and highly visible. Officers will be tasked with impartial enforcement in the key areas of speed, impaired driving, seatbelts and accident promoting offences.

Equivalent programmes in Australia indicate that a general deterrent effect and improved road safety outcomes can be achieved through this approach.

Improved speed management and enforcement

I know that many of you in this room have questions about the effectiveness of speed cameras and will be wondering where they fit in the Government’s future strategy for road safety.

We have decided that the pilot of hidden speed cameras will cease at the end of June.
The Government is not convinced they have worked. But we are convinced that a mix of extra education and more enforcement make a better solution.

There is to be stricter speed enforcement by Police. The new safety package has placed a fixed tolerance at 10km/h above the speed limit. It is estimated that stricter speed enforcement will result in a saving of 25 deaths and 530 injuries a year once implemented.

There is to be more compulsory breath testing for drunk drivers, particularly in high-risk rural areas. We are going to continue our campaign on reducing speed and encouraging drivers to use safety belts and child restraints.


Education initiatives

But with this extra enforcement comes extra education.

More money has been secured for community education initiatives with almost twice as much going to community funding as there is at present.

In fact last week’s announcement marks the first increase in government road safety spending in nearly six years.

We believe that communities and people like yourselves are the ones who can really help change attitudes to road safety.

This announcement also carries more funding and a greater emphasis on driver education within Maori and Pacific communities who need this support.

Driver education is an area in which this government has a particular interest. We recognise that educational programmes have the ability to target specific groups in society.

And when it comes to speeding, one group stands out strongly in the statistics.

Over the past two years, 514 speeding drivers aged between 15 – 24 years were involved in fatal or serious injury crashes. 84% of these speeding drivers were male. And 114 people were killed in these crashes alone.

Against that background I am concerned to learn the results of last years annual survey by the LTSA on public attitudes to road safety. The survey found that younger drivers (those under 25 years) perceive lower risks of crashing, being caught, or being injured from speeding than older drivers do.

The sad fact is that they are dying to prove themselves wrong.

That’s why the Government has recognised that community road safety education must go hand in hand with the new enforcement measures.

Earlier this year local and central government met in Wellington. A key issue that came out of the local government forum discussions was road safety. We have now acted on this and last weeks announcement will double existing funds set aside for community education.

The amount of funding available for community road safety projects has received a significant boost with a GST inclusive $3.837 million top-up.

We will also spend an additional GST inclusive $1.688 million of road safety advertising support targeted specifically for Maori and Pacific people.

The new road safety package broadens the approach of the last nine years.
We have seen a strong emphasis on enforcement with new driver license testing, roadside impoundments and heavier penalities.

I believe that community road safety education also needs more emphasis. And last weeks announcement recognises that we must have: Education alongside enforcement; central government in partnership with local communities.

Immediate Benefits of Budget initiatives

With the exception of the new community education initiatives, the proposals are expected to have an immediate effect on improving road safety performance once fully implemented.

The new community projects are expected to produce longer-term benefits and to make an important contribution to developing stronger community partnerships that will be crucial to the achievement of outcomes beyond 2001.

Similarly, while improving NZ Police strategic capability will help to achieve the 2001 road safety targets, the benefits of this initiative will be significant for long term NZ Police service delivery.

Road Safety Strategy to the year 2010


I would now like to take this opportunity to include you here today in the work the Government is currently doing to produce a road safety strategy for the next decade to 2010. That is the priority activity in road safety this year and will involve thorough public consultation and debate.

Developing a long-term road safety strategy will be a complex task that will involve some tough decisions on where best to direct our road safety resources.

The Government will have to decide what level of safety we should aim for in New Zealand.

Currently about 14.4 New Zealanders out of every 100,000 die on the roads. Compare this with the Swedes, who are currently world leaders, and lose just 6.1 people per 100,000. We need to ask ourselves: should New Zealand set our target, for example, to achieve that result here by the year 2010?

Once we have set the target then we need to agree to the means to achieve it. There are a variety of measures that could be employed:
- Compliance measures
- road engineering measures
- education measures

Compliance Measures

Compliance measures are not cheap – although they do tend to cost a lot less than engineering solutions, which are often extremely expensive.

But on the other hand compliance measures – whatever their relative efficiency – have their limits too: limits to do with how much people are prepared to allow their behaviour to be regulated and policed.

As a result this Government in putting the emphasis on a mix of more education, other enforcement tools and engineering, the three “e’s” of road safety, to bring the road toll down.


Road Engineering Measures

The roading system in rural New Zealand is not built to safely sustain vehicle speeds over 100km/h.

A significant part of NZ’s rural road network was constructed under an 80km/h open-road speed limit regime.

Experience has shown that how drivers perceive the road is a critical factor in speed reduction.

As I have already mentioned, however, road engineering is an expensive solution – and money doesn’t grow on trees.


The Right Mix of Measures

The question of how we should position ourselves for the next 10 years - what sort of mix of education, engineering and compliance solutions is best for us – is a topic that deserves very careful thought and debate.

I want to engage community interests, and others, in that debate.

The Road Safety Strategy to the Year 2010 consultation document will be publicly later this year.

I hope that many of you here today will give the strategy some consideration and give the Government your valuable insights.


Conclusion

Thank you once again for inviting me to speak to you today. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to tell you that this Government endorses the many community road safety projects that are designed by the local community to target local needs and at risk groups.

Your projects reflect the special social, cultural or other needs of the local community whilst also encouraging community involvement and ownership of the problem and the solutions.

We recognise that at your own local level you may already have a lot of valuable ideas about the mix of measures needed to achieve the goals we set ourselves for road safety in New Zealand.

The Government wants to hear your ideas and I personally encourage you to participate in the consultation process for the Road Safety Strategy to 2010.

This is the way it should be: central government in partnership with local communities. It is the only way we can make New Zealand’s roads safer for us all.


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