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Agencies welcome positive response to road safety campaign

Agencies welcome positive response to road safety campaign

As yesterday (Friday 31 January) marked the end of a two month national road safety campaign targeting speeding and other risky behaviour, Police and its partner agencies say the response from the majority of Kiwis has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Police campaign, launched on 1 December with the support of ACC, the Ministry of Transport, the NZ Transport Agency, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), finished at midnight yesterday. It introduced an extended 4km/hr reduced speed threshold for the first time beyond traditional holiday periods, supported by a national advertising and media campaign.

"While it will take several months until a full and robust assessment of the campaign can be carried out, road safety agencies have been extremely heartened that most drivers seem to be taking the slow down message on board," says National Manager Road Policing, Superintendent Carey Griffiths. "Our thanks go to all of those road users who have played their part to make it a 'safer summer' so far for everyone.

"Anecdotal feedback from our officers indicates the vast majority of motorists stopped for speeding were apologetic, with fewer complaints generally. We've also received many supportive comments, with feedback that traffic appeared quieter and calmer over the holidays."

The end of campaign also follows a record low road toll for 2013, and one of the lowest ever January tolls on record. Mr Griffiths says the figures reflect a continuing downward trend, with statistics showing that:

- 254 fatalities were recorded in 2013, the lowest road toll in 60 years, compared with 308 in 2012

- 23 deaths were recorded in December 2013, the lowest December road toll since monthly records began in 1965

- 19 deaths were recorded for January 2014 – the second lowest number for January since monthly records began in 1965 – one higher than the record low of 18 in January 2013

- 42 deaths were recorded between December 2013 and January 2014 – nearly half the 82 recorded in December/January 2008/2009. The 4km/hr holiday speed threshold was introduced in 2010.

"This long term trend is due to several factors: safer speeds, safer vehicles, and safer roads and roadsides – and just as importantly, improved driver behaviour, due to the vast majority of Kiwis who are driving more safely and looking out for each other. This is supported by the work that road safety agencies are doing through the Safer Journeys Strategy and safer system approach," Mr Griffiths says.

"That said, sadly, it's still 42 too many people who have died so far this summer, along with countless others who have been hurt – leaving grieving families and friends behind. That's why Police and its road safety partners will be continuing to focus on making our roads safer this coming year and maintaining the downward trend."

Mr Griffiths says while the early campaign feedback is pleasing, more comprehensive analysis still needs to be carried out. There are no current plans to introduce the 4km/hr speed threshold permanently.

"In the meantime, we remind motorists that this is no excuse to speed up, and that officers have the discretion to issue notices for anyone travelling faster than the posted speed limit.

"The 4km/hr threshold remains permanently in force around all schools, as it has done since 2007, and there will be no tolerance for anyone speeding in these areas and putting our most vulnerable road users at risk – particularly with many kids returning to school next week. Police will also be maintaining our strong focus on targeting speed, drink driving, and other high risk behaviour on our roads throughout the rest of the year."

ACC Chief Executive, Scott Pickering, says it's pleasing to see how positively Kiwis have responded to the campaign. "The reality is, the faster you go, the worse your injuries will be if you crash. We want to prevent Kiwis from being killed and suffering serious, lifelong injuries on the road, which is what this campaign was all about."

NZ Transport Agency Road Safety Director, Ernst Zollner, says the positive response from drivers to the campaign is heartening.

“The support from New Zealanders for the efforts of Police to keep our roads safe over the past two months is great, and drivers themselves deserve huge credit for taking responsibility for their own safety, and for taking their feet off the accelerator.

"We are having great discussions as a country about speed and about road safety, which are moving beyond the old paradigms of finger-pointing and blame. Reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads means creating a safer system which is more forgiving of human error.

"That requires safer roads and roadsides, safer vehicles and safer road use. Speed affects the outcome of all crashes, and there is a wealth of evidence which shows that even small reductions in road speeds leads to reductions in fatalities and serious injuries, and that lowering the enforcement threshold lowers mean speeds.”

Chair of the National Road Safety Committee, and Ministry of Transport Chief Executive, Martin Matthews, acknowledges the public's role in improving road safety. “The Police have been diligent in their enforcement of the lower threshold over the key summer months, but road users have also played an important role in helping achieve a safer summer on our roads.

“What will help us continue the trend of fewer deaths and serious injuries on our roads are the elements identified in Safer Journeys, the government’s road safety strategy to 2020. These are safer roads, cars and speeds, as well as safer driver behaviour. Making a significant difference in all these areas is the continuing focus of all the road safety partners,” Mr Matthews says.

EECA Chief Executive Mike Underhill says Kiwis have also saved dollars on fuel by reducing their speed over the summer. “Safe driving at lower speeds is fuel efficient driving that benefits your bank balance."


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