Road deaths dominate Beehive news

With the Government in holiday mode there is not much information coming out of the Beehive ‘latest news’ at this time of year, apart from releases on the rod toll.

Provisional figure for 2018 road deaths

Police Minister Stuart Nash has extended his sympathies to the families and friends of the 380 people who died in vehicle accidents during 2018.

Mr Nash has confirmed the provisional number of road deaths for 2018 has exceeded the annual toll for 2017, when 378 people lost their lives. It is the worst annual figure since 2009, when 384 people were killed.

The provisional figures show fatalities are made up of the following demographics:

  • 49 per cent were the driver of the vehicle and 24 per cent were passengers
  • 14 per cent were motorbike riders or pillion passengers
  • 11 per cent were pedestrians
  • Just over one per cent were cyclists
  • 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent were female
  • 28 per cent were in the sixty-plus age group
  • 14 per cent were children or teenagers
  • 13 per cent were aged between 20 and 24 years
  • 48 per cent died in crashes on the open road on state highways
  • The region with the largest share of fatalities was Waikato at 17 per cent; followed by Auckland and Canterbury with 14 per cent each; and Manawatu/Wanganui on 12 per cent

More information is on the Ministry of Transport website:

Two thirds of deaths were men. Motorbikes are relatively dangerous.

Waikato is the most dangerous region. Interesting to see the toll less in Auckland, although a lot of the roads in Auckland are either motorways with separated lanes or urban streets.

Curiously the Canterbury toll is high, but the Otago toll is low, with most deaths on State Highway 1 north and south of Dunedin.

This toll has since increased to 382 –Death in hospital lifts 2018 road toll (ODT) A man injured in a Nelson car crash last month has died – taking last year’s road toll up to 382.

Let’s make 2019 different and take care on our roads

After another tragic year on New Zealand roads, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is emphasising Government’s commitment to improving the country’s road safety record.

“It is staggering and unnecessary loss of life – equivalent in scale to a major airline crash,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“It is yet another reminder of the need to make substantial improvements to road safety in New Zealand.

“Many deaths and serious injuries on our roads are preventable.”

‘Are preventable’ keeps getting trotted out with deaths – of course road deaths are ‘preventable’, if no one used cars, or if ten times as much was spent improving road safety. Banning motorbikes would prevent deaths, as would banning male drivers.

This Government is committed to reducing deaths and serious injuries through new thinking, more funding and prioritised action.

“The Government is investing $1.4 billion over three years to make urgent safety improvements across our high-risk roads. On high volume state highways New Zealanders can expect to see more improvements like life-saving median and side barriers and crash-preventing rumble strips.

“This year we will be consulting the public on a new road safety strategy and action plan to drive substantial improvements in road safety in New Zealand,” said Julie Anne Genter.

Road safety is a good thing to invest in. Accidents and deaths have a major impact on many people and families.

Too many people killed over Christmas

The official holiday period has ended with nine people tragically killed in crashes on New Zealand roads. This is three people fewer than the 12 who died last holiday season.

Much of the previous release was repeated.

More information

Using roads or streets is one of the biggest risks we take in our lives. Because we travel so much it is easy to take safety for granted.

Unfortunately some deaths are caused by others at no fault of the victims – there is nothing much we can do about this but support Government expenditure on safety measures, and hope like hell it doesn’t happen to ourselves.


Genter acknowledges road toll reality

Last April Green MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter suggested an ambitious (and unrealistic) target “As part of the development of a new road safety strategy the Government will investigate setting a target of zero road deaths.” See Zero car target for zero road toll, or zero credibility?

After a year as a Minister she now sounds more realistic. NZ Herald:  It will be ‘many decades’ before the road toll is substantially reduced, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter

It will be “many decades” before New Zealand sees a substantial change in the road toll, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

Her comments come after New Zealand experienced its highest road toll since 2009, with almost 400 deaths last year.

Genter said the Government was in the process of implementing its road safety strategy – a strategy she said would save lives.

But this would take time, she said.

“The reality is these things take time and [there’s] a huge amount of road upgrades that need to be completed.”

In December last year, the Government committed $1.4 billion to making roads safer.

The policy, called the Safe Network Programme, aims to make 870km of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

That policy strategy will be in place in 2020, but Genter said it would be a process of “many decades to substantially bring down deaths and serious injuries on our roads”.

“We’re talking about road deaths and serious injury having increased over a five year period. It took time for that to start happening, it’s going to take time for it to turn around as well.”

In 2007, the road toll climbed to 421 people – that figure fell to 253 in 2013 before going back up to 382 last year.

In terms of how long it would take to bring the road toll back down, Genter said the Government would be working on setting those targets.

“The targets haven’t been set exactly, but we’re making the improvements to the roads and we’re building up safer speeds. I want to see this happen as soon as possible but we live in a democracy so there are certain approaches we have to take.

“But the quicker we can roll out safer speeds, the sooner we will see a reduction in deaths and serious injuries.”

We keep putting ourselves at risk of road deaths and injuries – for most of it travelling by road is the most risk thing we do apart from consumption of too much food, alcohol and drugs. People who are not at fault are at risk.

But the reality that Genter now acknowledges is that will take a significant amount of time and money to reduce the road toll to any sustainable extent.

But it is much better than it has been, despite a much bigger population and many more vehicles on the roads.

The New Zealand road toll peaked in 1973 at 843, a horrendous year – the toll for the seventies:

  • 1969 – 570
  • 1970 – 655
  • 1971 – 677
  • 1972 – 713
  • 1973 – 843
  • 1974 – 676
  • 1975 – 628
  • 1976 – 609
  • 1977 – 702
  • 1978 – 654
  • 1979 – 554

Drink driving was a major factor then, before policing was increased.

It has dropped considerably since then, but has fluctuated:

  • 2010 – 375
  • 2011 – 284
  • 2012 – 308
  • 2013 – 253
  • 2014 – 293
  • 2015 – 319
  • 2016 – 327
  • 2017 – 378
  • 2018 – 380

While this is a lot lower than the seventies the rise is a concern,.



Against the national trend – “target for record low road toll”

With three days to go in the year this is premature, but barring end of year tragedy the Otago road toll is on target to be a modern low, bucking the national trend.

ODT:  On target for record low road toll

The number of deaths on Otago roads this year are on track to be the lowest recorded, as southern police increase their focus on notorious crash corridors.

Nine people have died on Otago roads in the year to December 27, compared with an average of 18 over the corresponding period in each of the previous four years.

The lowest annual road toll recorded in Otago was 11, in 2009, compared with a high of 43 in 1988.

That’s a huge change in three decades, and half the last four year average.

Nationally, 372 people have died on the roads this year, making 2018 the second deadliest year since 2010.

Otago coastal road policing team leader Senior Sergeant Jared Kirk, who began in the role in March, said a greater emphasis on deploying staff to the most lethal roads was a major driver of this year’s low toll, together with road safety improvements made by the NZ Transport Agency.

The majority of fatal crashes in his area happened on State Highway 1 north of Dunedin to Oamaru and south to Balclutha.

One significant aspect of this is that the toll is heavier well away from the increasingly heavy tourist traffic areas of Central Otago including Queenstown and Wanaka.

$1.4 billion spending announced to make roads safer, reduce deaths

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter have announced a $1.4 billion, three-year programme to make New Zealand’s highest risk roads safer. They haven’t said where the money is coming from.

The Safe Network Programme will make 870 kilometres of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

The programme will target an estimated $600 to $700 million of state highway safety improvements and $700 to 800 million of local road safety improvements. Once complete, the improvements are expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.

Phil Twyford said the Safe Network Programme will build urgent safety improvements on our roads at scale and pace over the next three years to save lives.

he Safe Network Programme is just one part of the Transport Agency’s safety programme. The Transport Agency continues to invest in a wide range of programmes delivered across the safety spectrum including road safety maintenance, advertising and education, road policing, active modes and public transport, all of which support improved safety outcomes.

Safety improvements in Safe Network Programme will include:

  • fixing dangerous corners
  • installing roadside and median safety barriers
  • shoulder widening
  • further safety improvements for high risk intersections
  • rumble strips
  • improving skid resistance
  • improving rail level crossing safety
  • setting safe and appropriate speed limits.

Safe Network Programme - national map

That suggests the new safety measures will prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries per year, a significant number but less than half the current road toll.

Julie Anne Genter said, “our Government believes it is unacceptable for anyone to be killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

“Annual road deaths in New Zealand increased from 253 just a few years ago in 2013, to 378 last year. The number of serious injuries increased from 2,020 to 2,836 per year over the same period.

“No other industry accepts hundreds of people dying each year as normal. No person I know thinks losing a loved one in a crash is an acceptable price to pay for living in a modern society – that’s why we’re making safety a priority.”

Earlier this year Genter said the Government was looking at introducing a zero road death policy by 2020. Stuff: Government looks at targeting zero road deaths and serious injuries from 2020

The Government will look at introducing a zero road death policy by 2020 as it strives to curb the country’s “unacceptable” road toll.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter made the announcement at the local government road safety summit in Wellington on Monday, telling guests local and central government needed to work together to make the ambition a reality.

“We need a new [road safety] strategy. We need a clear idea of the outcomes we want and the steps we need to take to get there,”

“I believe this is a transformational Government. It is a Government that can set ambitious targets, whether on child poverty, on climate change, or road safety.”

“Clear, truly ambitious targets drive policy and help deliver meaningful change. That’s why this Government will investigate adopting a target of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

While the target could be considered “audacious”, all road deaths and serious injuries were avoidable, and New Zealanders had become “desensitised” to the rising casualties, Genter said.

The Government would also no longer refer to the “road toll”, instead referring to “road deaths” to acknowledge the people who had lost their lives and the fact road deaths were not inevitable.

There was no mention of the zero deaths in yesterday’s announcement.

More information about the Safe Network Programme, including a map:

“The role and potential of women in sustainable urban mobility”

It is difficult to understand what this is about let alone what benefits may come of it.

Julie Anne Genter: Minister to speak on women and transport at international events

Minister Genter will give the keynote address at the Women Mobilise Women conference, organised by the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative. The initiative aims to generate a debate on the role and potential of women in sustainable urban mobility.

“This is the first conference to empower women in transport and I am excited to be addressing this event focused on implementing sustainable mobility solutions on the ground by women, for women,” Ms Genter said.

I guess Genter will explain to the conference what she means, or maybe attendees already understand this sort of language.

I don’t know why women need to look separately at sustainable mobility solutions in urban areas. Separate women’s carriiges, buses or cycle lanes?

Genter will then go to something that looks more understandable and worthwhile:

The Minister will then join Ministers and government officials from around the world at the 2018 International Transport Forum Summit (ITF). This year’s theme is transport safety and security.

Minister Genter will participate in sessions addressing climate change and transport, ensuring long-term resilience of transport infrastructure funding, and how to increase safety on city streets.

Following the ITF Summit, Minister Genter will travel to Denmark and Sweden to meet with officials and experts on transport safety, particularly to discuss their implementation of ‘Vision Zero’ which aims to achieve a transport system with no fatalities or serious injuries.

“Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world having cut its road death rate by investing in safety infrastructure and setting safer speed limits. Earlier this year I announced that the Government will investigate adopting Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ approach to road safety in New Zealand. I am looking forward to learning from their experience while I am there,” Ms Genter said.

It is good to look at successful road safety initiatives elsewhere in the world.

I hope Genter learns a more realistic approach than “aims to achieve a transport system with no fatalities or serious injuries”. Goals are best when they look achievable.

I think a better goal would be to halve deaths and injuries in x number of years. If successful that can be repeated to slash the road toll, but it can realistically never reach zero.

And a focus on men might make sense where road safety is concerned, given they are generally more dangerous on the roads.

Toll prompts call for crisis meeting

The Associate Transport Minister has called officials to a crisis meeting over the road toll.

It’s passed a grim milestone – 328 dead on our roads so far this year. That’s the same number that died in the whole of last year, and there are still 43 days to go.

This year more than one person a day has died on our roads, and we’re heading for our highest road toll since 2010.

“It’s not acceptable that people should die when they’re just going about their lives,” says Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter.

Ms Genter has called together officials from the police, the Ministry of Transport and the NZTA for an urgent meeting on Tuesday.

“I’ve asked officials for an immediate briefing on what can be done in a short period of time and they’ve indicated a few areas, so we’ll be exploring those and implementing whatever’s going to be most effective to save lives.”

Ministry of Transport: Annual road toll historical information

Time series of deaths from 1921-2016

Road toll peaks approximately each decade:

  • 1921: 69
  • 1930: 246
  • 1939: 246
  • 1951: 292
  • 1961: 393
  • 1973: 843
  • 1982: 673
  • 1990: 729
  • 2000: 462
  • 2009: 384
  • 2013: 253 (low)
  • 2016: 318

Trends also of interest:

Time series of deaths rates from 1936-2016

It appears that congestion is pushing the toll back up.

It doesn’t appear to be a crisis, yet, but it should be cause for concern.



Road toll

The road toll is causing consternation again, with the 2016 toll up a little on the previous year with an established upward trend. It’s still well down on a few decades ago but there’s growing concerns.

In Addressing the country’s road toll the ODT has some historical numbers.

  • 1972 – 843
  • 2013 – 253 (lowest since 1950)
  • 2015 – 319
  • 2016 – 326 (provisional)

In the early 1970s drink driving was common, seat belts were not compulsory and cars were getting faster and more powerful but it took quite a while for them to become safer.

Numbers of cars on the road are increasing and deaths per kilometre travelled isn’t growing much if at all but an increasing trend in deaths is a concern.

What can be done about it? Roads can be made safer, and possibly more police on the roads would help, but they can’t be everywhere all of the time.

I don’t know how many deaths are the result of bad luck or bad roads, but one significant issue is driver stupidity.

Just after Christmas: Speed a factor in Canterbury crash that killed three people

It wasn’t the only factor.

Police say speed was the main factor in a crash that killed three people in Canterbury this morning.

Two males and a female died at the scene of the crash in Leeston.

Two 14-year-old boys are the only survivors after their car rolled.

Reporter Sam Olley said the driver was unlicensed, hardly anyone in the car was wearing a seatbelt and police said that’s a reason the fatality rate was so high.

Olley said the one person wearing a seatbelt was able to walk out of the crash while the other survivor remained in hospital.

It’s impossible to improve roads or policing or laws to prevent stupidity like this.

And a couple of days later: Cromwell fatal crash victim named

Police have identified the man who died as a result of motorcycle crash in Cromwell this morning.

He was drinking and speeding in the lead up to the crash and was not wearing a helmet, police said.

“Sadly, speed and alcohol are factors that we believe have contributed to this crash, and we have confirmed a crash helmet was not being worn by the rider,” Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk said.

The motorcycle involved in the crash was an off road dirt bike.

Again it is impossible for the Government or the police to prevent behaviour like this.

This is very sad for the family – I sort of knew him and went through school with his father, and local reaction has been  shock, but there’s really only one cause – stupid choices by one person.

So what can be done about the growing road toll? ODT:

But  the vast majority of fatal accidents are caused by New Zealanders and most are the result of poor decision-making or a lack of ability behind the wheel. Foreign drivers are often an easy target but, in reality, it is the gung-ho habits of local drivers that must urgently be addressed. Some accidents may be  the result of an unforeseen and unpreventable event. However, road safety  authorities maintain most road deaths are preventable. That means we must consider our own behaviour, question our skills behind the wheel, and make changes for the better.

New Zealand drivers have a reputation of being aggressive, impatient and complacent.

In the majority of fatal crashes one of the five basic causes is a factor:  drink-driving, speeding, distraction, fatigue and not wearing a seatbelt.

The social and economic cost of New Zealand road deaths is estimated by the Ministry of Transport to be more than $3 billion a year. That cost is determined by a complicated formula which includes  loss of life and life quality, loss of output due to temporary incapacitation, medical costs, legal costs and  property damage costs. Whatever the formula, it is money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said earlier  last year the Government’s focus was on investment to make roads safer for everyone. That included a $600 million package of improvements for 90 high-risk sites in 14 regions,  and the Visiting Drivers Project, in which  agencies including the NZTA, police, councils and tourist industry representatives  joined forces to improve safety.

But all the money in the world will not make roads safe if drivers are not  prepared to play their part. Slow down, stay alert, drive sober and buckle up.

Personal responsibility is a major factor but is very difficult to educate or impose by authorities.


Targeting the worst road users like these ones

The decision by police to have virtually no tolerance for speeding has been very controversial. One of the main criticisms is that it catches out many low risk drivers. The same for the reduction in alcohol limits.

Targeting the worst drivers is a lot harder but if it can be done effectively it would do more to reduce accidents and road deaths and injuries.

This is the sort of driver (and passengers) that need to be better targeted:

Car passenger urinated out of window before crash

Witnesses saw a car’s occupants climbing on to its roof and bonnet and a passenger urinating out of a window before it crashed on Friday.

Police said the car’s four teenage occupants were very lucky to not have sustained serious injuries.

“We received multiple complaints from members of the public of the car overtaking at speed and some of the occupants climbing over the bonnet and roof of the vehicle while it was travelling along the State Highway.”

Police said witnesses reported the front-seat passenger was standing waist-high and urinating out of the side window before they saw him sit back down and the driver lean her body out of the window shortly before the crash about 10.50pm.

The car is then understood to have veered across the southbound lanes and become airborne when it collided with a centre barrier, landing in the middle of the northbound lanes.

Police are investigating claims that the front-seat passenger was steering the car while the driver was leaning out of the window.

In this case they ended up dinging themselves and the car up.

The 18-year-old woman driving and 17-year-old male rear-seat passenger were taken to Christchurch Hospital by ambulance with moderate injuries to their head and face.

The 19-year-old woman passenger was uninjured and the 17-year-old front-seat passenger had minor injuries to his right shoulder.

Darwinism is bad enough. But this sort of road behaviour also puts other motorists at risk. In this case others were lucky the car hit a centre barrier and not another car.

“The roads in Canterbury are as safe as those using them and in this instance the driver and some of the occupants in this car put not only themselves but other road users at risk with their unacceptable behaviour,” Mr Dean said.

It’s difficult stopping all dangerous dicks from using roads. But there is a lot of ill feeling amongst low risk drivers for being targeted and pinged for minor infringements.

If relatively safe road users are less pissed off with the police approach they are more likely to report bad and dangerous driving.