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Expert says NZ should aim for zero road toll

Thursday 23 October 2008

Swedish traffic safety expert says NZ should aim for zero road toll

More than 400 people are killed on the roads every year in New Zealand, but a visiting Swedish traffic safety expert says we should be much more ambitious in our policies and aim for zero road deaths. Professor Claes Tingvall is the controversial keynote speaker at a seminar at the University of Otago, Wellington this week and has been invited to enhance discussion of road safety in this country.

Professor Tingvall is delivering the keynote address at the seminar ‘Zero Traffic Deaths: Visions for Road Safety’ which has been organised by the Centre for Sustainable Cities at UOW headed by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman.

His address and ‘Vision Zero’ philosophy is a radical new way of looking at road and traffic safety which has fundamental implications for transport infrastructure, road design, urban design and vehicle design.

The principles behind Vision Zero have been enacted into Swedish law and are now being applied as part of Sweden’s road safety strategy. One example is that Sweden now has a maximum 20mg drink-driving limit compared to New Zealand’s 80mg

Professor Tingvall says the strategy of totally eradicating road deaths makes a lot of sense and is not an impractical idea.

“It’s the type of approach that can lead us further than just intermediate targets or simply trying to make things a bit better every year. Vision Zero should be seen as the management tool for road safety in a modern society,” he says.

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Vision Zero changes the emphasis in responsibility for traffic safety. It is all about putting safety at the highest priority in transport planning, and not trading it off for mobility and speed as happens in many countries.

Professor Tingvall argues that safe driving speed limits should be determined by the standard of vehicles and roads, not the need for mobility. This means that the safer the road and vehicle the higher the speed that can be accepted. This would mean that on many urban roads in New Zealand there should be a 30kph speed limit (as now exists in parts of Europe), because of risks to pedestrians, and on the open road a 70kph limit. Only where there is no risk of side or frontal impact should speeds be above 100kph, such as on a fully engineered motorway.

The Swedish safety expert has a long list of academic and administrative credentials. He is Director of Traffic Safety at the Swedish Road Administration and Chairman of EuroNCAP, and has worked in the traffic safety field for over 30 years. He is the author of around 100 scientific studies in journals and books, mainly in the areas of injury epidemiology and car occupant protection and safety ratings and safety policy.

Dr Michael Keall from the Centre for Sustainable Cities says New Zealand can benefit from Professor Tingvall’s experience and insightful analysis of how to reduce the road toll.

”Even the word ‘toll’ suggests a price we have to pay for using our cars. Perhaps we as a nation can make a choice to pay in other ways, by paying for safer roads, safer vehicles and tolerating lower speed limits. This choice is what Professor Tingvall’s Vision Zero makes so clear.”

During his address to traffic experts, the success and outcomes of the new laws in Sweden will be discussed, as well as some of the products and innovations that have resulted.

Professor Tingvall will be speaking at 10am on Thursday October 23, in the Small Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, Wellington

Other speakers at the seminar are the Ministry of Transport, ACC, the NZ Transport Authority and the Wellington City Council.


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