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Survey shows road safety messages getting through

Survey shows road safety messages getting through

New Zealanders are highly supportive of on-road police enforcement and are less accepting of risky driving behaviour than in the past, according to the latest annual Land Transport Safety Authority survey of public attitudes to road safety.

Changes in attitudes and behaviour since the introduction of targeted police enforcement and high-profile advertising campaigns in 1995 include a higher perceived risk of being caught drink-driving, greater recognition of speed as a road safety risk and higher reported use of safety belts.

The 2002 survey of public attitudes - the first carried out since the Police Highway Patrol became fully operational - shows strong public support for alcohol, speed and safety belt enforcement. The percentage of New Zealanders who agree that enforcement helps to lower the road toll has now risen to 83% for compulsory breath testing, 82% for speed enforcement and 90% for seatbelt enforcement.

The long-held belief that excessive speed isn't dangerous is steadily losing currency. Just 15 percent of those responding to the 2002 survey thought they were unlikely to crash when speeding if they were careful, down from 24 percent in 1995.

Most people now find extreme speeds unacceptable - 87% say automatic loss of licence is a fair punishment for speeding at 150km/h or more on the open road. Attitudes are also hardening against less extreme speeds - 48% now think loss of licence is fair for speeding at 130km/h on the open road, up from 35% in 1995.

Most New Zealanders (61%) agree that the use of speed cameras helps to reduce road trauma and a similar number agree that speed cameras are operated fairly.

Recognition of the risks associated with drink-driving has also increased, with just eight percent of respondents to the 2002 survey believing a drink-driving crash was unlikely if they were careful, down from 13 percent in 1995.

The 2002 survey also found an increase in reported safety belt use over previous years. Only four percent of those surveyed said they often or always drove without a safety belt on short trips, down from 17 percent in 1995. Only one percent said they seldom wore a safety belt on the open road, down from 10 percent in 1995.

The survey revealed broad support for the LTSA's road safety advertising – 49 percent want it maintained at current levels while 44 percent think the amount of advertising should be increased.

But in spite of the improvements of recent years, Director of Land Transport Safety David Wright said the survey also shows that too many New Zealanders are still engaging in dangerous behaviour on the roads.

"Most people agree that drink-driving and speeding are dangerous, yet one quarter admit to having driven while intoxicated one third say they enjoy driving fast on the open road. There is still a gap between some people's attitudes and their behaviour behind the wheel, and that needs to change," Mr Wright said.

The 2002 survey of public attitudes to road safety is the latest in a series that began in 1974 and have been conducted annually since 1994. Public attitudes surveys are one of several measures (including crash data and surveys of road user behaviour) used in the evidence-based evaluation of road safety programmes in New Zealand.

Face-to-face interviews with respondents representative of the New Zealand population aged 15 and over are conducted in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the country in May and June of each year. In 2002, interviews were conducted with 1,645 people, 1,439 of whom held drivers' licences.

Full details of the survey can be found on the LTSA website at http://www.ltsa.govt.nz/publications/public-attitudes/2002.html.

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