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Improved driver behaviour best way to cut rd toll

Improved driver behaviour best way to cut road toll

ACC Chief Executive Garry Wilson says the best way to reduce the death and injury toll on our roads is through improved driver behaviour rather than road engineering measures.

Mr Wilson has told the 2005 New Zealand Local Authority Traffic Institute (TRAFINZ) annual conference in Wellington today that while removing power poles, eliminating ditches and installing median barriers were desirable, they were not the only solution.

“New Zealand roads and cars will always be dangerous if we don’t address the human element,” he said. “We need to be clear that it is people who are killing—and severely injuring—other people.”

Mr Wilson said ACC was committed to enhancing its road safety public education campaigns to meet the needs of the community, in conjunction with its injury prevention partners. They included the Police, Land Transport New Zealand, the National Road Safety Committee, other government agencies and local authorities.

He said Accident Compensation Corporation research showed local male drivers in rural areas were most at risk of a drink driving fatality. ACC’s target audience for its multi-media advertising, rural males aged 17 to 45, were more concerned about getting caught drink-driving than they were about the consequences of drink-driving for their own safety or the safety of others.

However, Mr Wilson said, the research also indicated that prospect of getting caught was less likely to cause them to change their behaviour than the possibility that any car on the road might be an unmarked Police car. So ACC rolled out a Sober Driver campaign based on rural un-marked police cars, with poster catchphrases such as “This is not an unmarked Police car. Anything else could be”.

Awareness and recall of the campaign have been high in the three regions where it has been evaluated—Waikato, Tasman, and Otago/Southland. When the programme started six years ago, nearly 18% of injury crashes were attributed to alcohol. This is now down to 12%.

Mr Wilson also said there were promising gains to be made for ACC investing in combating impaired drug-driving. ACC funding has been allocated for at least 50% of frontline Police staff to be trained in impairment testing in the field.

The TRAFINZ conference heard that the issue of drivers travelling too fast for the conditions was being addressed because speed had grown to be a factor in 39% of road deaths and 19% of road injuries. In 2004 there were 172 deaths, 590 serious injuries and 2034 minor injuries in crashes were people were travelling too fast.

“We all know that speed kills”, Mr Wilson said. “But there are two kinds of speed that we need to manage—‘excess speed’, which means travelling faster than the legal posted speed limit, and ‘inappropriate speed’, which means travelling too fast for the prevailing conditions.”

He said ACC’s Drive to the Conditions campaign was pitched predominantly at male drivers to encourage them to focus on travelling safely, and weighing up road and weather conditions and traffic flows.

Mr Wilson said another public education campaign, to highlight the dangers of driver fatigue, involved an ACC partnership with State Insurance (owned by Insurance Australia Group) to operate roadside “driver reviver” rest stops during peak holiday periods. This initiative reflects ACC’s move recently to develop strategic injury prevention partnerships with commercial insurers.

The ACC CEO’s presentation to the TRAFINZ conference has come at the start ACC’s Safety New Zealand Week, which runs until 13 August. The week aims to put a spotlight on an injury toll which last year saw 1076 die of injuries and 106,000 moderately to seriously injured.

A quarter of those were injured at home while a third suffered injuries at work. Many were injured on the roads with traffic injuries making up around half the serious injuries managed by ACC.

“The impact on the lives of injured people and their families can’t be measured,” Mr Wilson said. “That’s why we’re encouraging workplaces, schools and sports teams to plan their own safety activities, families to do home safety checks and prepare emergency escape plans and individuals to do first aid courses. We’re also encouraging people to support events in their area.”

Local activities range from tai chi demonstrations for older people to child car seat checking clinics, workplace safety seminars and snow safety promotions. Details of activities can be found at http://www.safetynzweek.co.nz A highlight of the week will be the New Zealand Community Safety Awards which will be presented in Wellington tomorrow (Tuesday 9 August).

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