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Paul Swain AA Driver Education Conference speech

Paul Swain AA Driver Education Conference speech

Thank you for inviting me here to your annual conference. Before I begin I’d like to acknowledge the AA Driver Education Trust’s Chair Rob Lester, the 12 trust board members and its chief executive Peter Sheppard.

Today I’d like to focus on the efforts the government is making at trying to lower the road toll, particularly the Road Safety Strategy to 2010. Firstly though, I’ll make some brief comments on the New Zealand Transport Strategy, a very important document, which now guides government decision-making on transport.

New Zealand Transport Strategy

Our road safety goals sit within the broader context of overall transport policy. Late last year I released the New Zealand Transport Strategy (NZTS). It defines the government’s vision for the future of transport in New Zealand: “By 2010, New Zealand will have an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system”

One of the key points in the strategy is integration. This means transport policy should help create an efficient and integrated mix of transport modes. The industry will need to work together to achieve this goal. Transport policy will also need to ensure the efficient use of existing and new public infrastructure and investment.

The NZTS focuses on five main objectives to find the most effective transport solutions across all modes. The five objectives aim:

to assist economic development; to assist safety and personal security; to improve access and mobility; to protect and promote public health and; to ensure environmental sustainability.

Vehicle use has continued to grow, however funding has lagged behind. For this reason the strategy takes a multi-modal approach to our transport sector. If we can promote all modes – rail, sea, air and road – by offering travellers more choice we will take the pressure off our roading network. This is one of the goals of the strategy.

However roading will still be the major focus of the strategy, with road safety a major component of that.

Road Safety

As I’m sure you will be aware New Zealand is making excellent progress in tackling the road toll. Last year’s toll of 404 road deaths was the lowest since 1963. This is despite an almost tripling of our vehicle fleet and a huge increase in the number of kilometres travelled over that period. We have set ourselves the goal of no more than 300 fatalities and 4,500 hospitalisations by the year 2010, with an interim step of no more than 400 fatalities and 5870 hospitalisations by 2004.

Central to our efforts at lowering the road toll is the Road Safety Strategy to 2010.

The 2010 strategy aims to build on the success of National Road Safety plan, which produced good results during the 1990s.

The strategy focuses on three key issues: engineering, education and enforcement. As far as engineering is concerned we are making good progress. While funding will also be a constraint – as it is for the transport portfolio generally – major and minor works are being completed.

Minor works such as resurfacing roads, clearing vegetation, improving road markings, signage and visibility at intersections can have a huge impact on safety.

A good example is the resurfacing work on SH2 at the Petone overbridge, north of Wellington. At one stage police were attending more than one accident a week, but since a skid resistant surface was laid down two years ago there has only been two injury accidents.

Last September we announced a NZ$22 million package of road safety initiatives as part of the first steps in the Road Safety Strategy to 2010.

The September package comprises a mix of education, enforcement and engineering measures aimed at lowering the road toll including:

New funding for the police to target rural drink driving, Auckland motorways and heavy vehicle safety.

Additional funding for road safety advertising.

A Novice Driver Pilot, to test potential changes to the graduated driver licensing system for novice drivers. More on this later

Additional funding for the existing Community Road Safety Programme, including a 'Safe Routes to School' programme to provide support for projects, which give safe access to the road network for pedestrians and cyclists.

An expanded Road Sense Ata Haere programme for primary and intermediate schools, which integrates road safety education into the every-day curriculum.

New funding to give road controlling authorities and their engineering consultants desktop access to the LTSA’s Crash Analysis System.

A new voluntary Safety Management Systems (SMS) regime for road controlling authorities to ensure they design safety into new roading projects.

New funding for an Annual Travel Survey.

As part of the novice driver programme the LTSA will soon begin trialling a Competency-Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) for new drivers as they progress through the drivers licensing system.

The CBTA approach replaces standard driving tests with courses of training and assessment with specially trained driving instructors. However the final assessment in a CBTA course is still a driving test.

A representative of the LTSA will talk more about this later.

In terms of road safety advertising there will be a subtle change in direction. The blood and guts ads have been very effective but there is a feeling that we are now reaching the point of diminishing returns as viewers become de-sensitised to the harrowing images. While these ads will continue they will be supplemented by new ads, which aim to educate drivers instead of just scaring them.

Achievement targets will be monitored to inform the development of policies and initiatives for the remainder of the strategy period. Progress is being monitored throughout the first year and will be reviewed in July 2003. There will be a full evaluation in 2005 and every two years thereafter. The mix of measures may change as the effectiveness of the various initiatives becomes apparent.

The reduction in the road toll to date is strongly linked to the full rollout of the Highway Patrol and greater productivity in road policing. The Police’s recently-released Road Policing Quarterly Report showed a 28% reduction in deaths on the state highway network between 2001 and 2002 (from 266 in 2001 to 191 in 2002). This compares with an 11% reduction in the overall road toll, down from 455 in 2001 to 404 in 2002.

The Highway Patrol has been very effective. Although representing only 20.3% of Police resources, it issued 42.5% of all speeding tickets during the second quarter of the 2002/03 financial year.

The data also shows a link between the falling road toll and increase in enforcement of certain offences. Reductions in the road toll were more pronounced in the second half of 2002 corresponding with an increase in the number of drink-driving, speeding and failure to wear restraint notices issued by Police. For example speed enforcement in 2002 was up 40.1% over the previous year and restraint enforcement was up 51.4%.

We are on track to achieving our 2010 safety goals, however, we must not ‘rest on our laurels’. For instance this year, the road toll is tracking significantly higher than it was at the same time last year. As of yesterday this year’s road toll stood at 153, compared to 138 at the same point last year. This demonstrates the need to avoid complacency.

Alcohol and excessive or inappropriate speed remain the two most significant factors contributing to road deaths and injuries in New Zealand. For year-ended June 2002, alcohol was a contributing factor in 27% of fatal crashes and 13% of injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 122 deaths and 1978 reported injuries - 484 serious and 1494 minor.

Excessive speed (travelling too fast for conditions) is the main contributor to 32% of fatal crashes and 15% of injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 142 deaths and 2334 reported injuries - 527 serious and 1807 minor for the year-ended June 2002.

Complacency is the enemy so it is important that we consider initiatives that can assist us in achieving our road safety goal. We are considering measures aimed at recidivists such as the use of alcohol interlocks on vehicles, expanding the use of vehicle impoundment as a penalty for drink-driving and other sanctions aimed at repeat offenders.

I’m advised that lowering the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit and the introduction of demerit points for speed camera offences could have an important impact on reducing road deaths and injuries.

Alcohol limits should form part of a balanced programme of sanctions put together to tackle all aspects of the alcohol and driving problem, in conjunction with appropriate enforcement and public education, including advertising, community-based initiatives and programmes within the education system itself. Such a programme should be aimed at reducing all types of offending with the emphasis on 'hard-core' recidivists in the first instance.

All of these initiatives are currently being considered by the LTSA at my request. I hope to go to Melbourne later this month to take a first-hand look at what the state of Victoria is doing in this area.

Getting the road toll down is not just the job of government and the government applauds the work of groups such as the Driver Education Foundation.

I would like firstly to congratulate you for your continued support of the Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD). This has proven to be a very successful programme. Another example of an excellent foundation initiative is the Alchemy Driver training programme. This innovative programme offers those aged 15 - 24 years the opportunity to receive rewards upon completing advanced driver training and education. It encourages young drivers to take responsibility for their driving behaviour.

In summary all of the efforts of the government and organisations such as the foundation will be on vain if we can’t get ordinary New Zealanders to buy into the goal of lowering the road toll. I believe we are having success here as things like drink driving and excessive speed which were common behaviour a few years ago are now increasingly regarded as unacceptable by average New Zealanders. Road user issues

I’d like to finish up by mentioning some changes to the road user rules.

A number of Land Transport Rules, that have relevance for driver education, are currently under development. The Road User Rule, closed for consultation on 18 March.

This rule covers a number of policy areas affecting the behaviour of all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists as well as vehicles. The main topic areas include:

Considering the give-way rules – this proposes reverting back to the old priority rule at intersections and ‘t-junctions’ and does away with the current ‘give way to the right and those turning from the right’. It is felt that requiring traffic turning right to give way to all oncoming traffic will produce more cautious decision-making and reduce the level of judgement needed.

Changing heavy vehicle limit speeds – allowing a greater number of heavy vehicles to travel at 90kms instead of 80kms.

There are some issues for driver licensing that are being considered including, conditional licenses and the assessment regime for older drivers.

Conclusion

In conclusion road safety is a major priority for this government. New Zealand has made great strides in this area over the past two decades. However complacency is the enemy. Every road death is a tragedy and the government believes it has a responsibility to do all it can to lower the road toll. Of course we will never be able to eradicate accidents completely but that does not we should aim for some acceptable number of road deaths and then be satisfied when we get there.

I commend the Driver Education Foundation on its excellent work in improving road safety and wish it well for the future.

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