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New Rules To Boost Vehicle Safety

Only cars meeting approved frontal impact standards will be allowed to be registered for use on New Zealand roads from April, Transport Minister Mark Gosche announced today.

The new requirement is one of a several signed by the Minister this week, all aimed at improving the safety of New Zealand vehicles.

“One third of all fatal crashes and nearly half of the injury crashes in New Zealand last year involved a frontal impact.

“Australian research shows that vehicle occupants are 25% less likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash when the vehicle complies with frontal impact standards, so rules governing frontal impact standards are a crucial tool for reducing the road toll.”

The Land Transport Safety Authority estimates that as many as 85 lives could be saved, and thousands of injuries prevented, over the next 18 years as a result of the new requirements, Mr Gosche said.

Frontal impact systems use a combination of safety features such as airbags and "crumple zones" to protect vehicle occupants in head-on crashes and other frontal impacts.

The change means that most Japanese vehicles manufactured before frontal impact standards were introduced (between 1994 and 1996) will be unable to enter the New Zealand fleet after 1 April next year. Vehicles already registered in New Zealand will not be affected.

"The frontal impact protection system is the most important advance in vehicle safety technology since the seat belt. Compliance with an approved standard can literally mean the difference between life and death in a crash."

While there has been widespread support for the rule because of the acknowledged safety benefits, some had argued it should be delayed, rather than introduced in April.

“The problem is that our fleet is aging significantly. Because of safety advances like frontal impact systems, newer vehicles are much safer than older vehicles. But the age of our fleet is heading in the wrong direction. In 1996 the average imported car was 6.1 years old, and now it is 7.5 years old.

This rule will accelerate the rate at which newer used cars come into New Zealand.

“With no intervention it’s estimated that all imports would comply by 2009, but we want the safety benefits much earlier than that.”

The Frontal Impact Rule also makes it a legal requirement to replace damaged or deployed airbags in vehicles up to 14 years old, and introduces new requirements for the supply and use of replacement parts when a vehicle is repaired.

Also announced today was the Tyres and Wheels Rule, which includes new requirements relating to the use of space saver tyres. The rule states that space saver tyres can only be used in an emergency, and that the manufacturer’s recommendations relating to tyre pressure and maximum speed must be followed. These changes also come into effect from April 1.

"Cars will be legally limited to a maximum speed of 80km/h when a space saver tyre is being used, unless the manufacturer recommends a lower limit. People will also be legally required to inflate space saver tyres to the recommended pressure - which is much higher than for a normal tyre," Mr Gosche said.

Minor revisions have also been made to five existing vehicle standards rules covering door retention systems, external projections, steering systems, head restraints and interior impact standards.

Mr Gosche said all the new vehicles safety rules would play an important part in the government's determination to bring the road toll down.

"Vehicles are getting safer all the time as new technology is developed. These rules will help to ensure that as many New Zealanders as possible enjoy the benefits of these advances."

More vehicle safety rules are likely to be introduced next year, to ban water damaged vehicles, improve standards for seatbelts and introduce more stringent border inspections, Mr Gosche said.


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