$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: www.nzta.govt.nz/safe-network-programme

Zero car target for zero road toll, or zero credibility?

Following her lost leadership bid Green minister Julie Anne Genter is still seeking attention, this time with announcement of a goal of zero road deaths ‘over the coming decade’. It’s hard to see this being achieved unless accompanied by a zero cars and trucks goal, something that doesn’t seem too far fetched as a Genter ambition.

No loss of life acceptable

No loss of life is acceptable, is the message behind the development of the Government’s new road safety strategy, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

The development of the new strategy was announced today at the Local Government Road Safety Summit in Wellington.

“As part of the development of a new road safety strategy the Government will investigate setting a target of zero road deaths,” says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

“I accept that a target of zero death would be audacious, but ambitious targets are need to focus the resources of both central and local government to save lives on our roads.

“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.

“Ambitious zero road death strategies have been successful overseas. Countries like Canada, Sweden, and Norway all aim for zero road deaths and have considerably lower fatality rates than New Zealand.

“The development of a new road safety strategy will take until September 2019 and be ready for implementation in 2020. It will outline the steps New Zealand will take to meaningfully reduce deaths and serious injuries over the coming decade.

“While the strategy is being completed we intend to push forward with actions where there is strong evidence of effectiveness.

“The Government has proposed a significant boost in funding to improve local and regional roads right around the country. This will have a particular focus on proven safety treatments, like median and side barriers.

“We’re also considering a significant funding boost to deliver safe walking and cycling infrastructure in our towns and cities.

“Over the next year the Government will consider a number of options for reducing harm on the road, including improving the safety of vehicles entering New Zealand, reducing speeds around schools, and will implement mandatory alcohol interlock device systems for repeat drunk drivers,” Ms Genter said.

A politician stating ‘no loss of life is acceptable’ is putting a huge expectation on results from radical policies – to reduce the road toll to anywhere near zero would require very radical changes to road use.

Genter seems stuck in a bubble of Green idealism.  This won’t help build confidence in the ability of Greens to be practical co-governors.

What next – a zero deaths from heart attacks and cancer goal? A zero deaths goal?

Dominion Post editorial: Genter’s road toll target a fantasy

Julie Anne Genter appears to have both nailed. It is laudable that the Associate Transport Minister cares deeply about the people she represents and is passionate about making our roads safer. We too share her view that the road toll must come down.

But it is condescending and patronising that she would promote a nonsensical target of zero road deaths by 2020. That’s little more than 18 months away, by the way.

That’s wrong.  Genter said “development of a new road safety strategy will take until September 2019 and be ready for implementation in 2020″ which will ” outline the steps New Zealand will take to meaningfully reduce deaths and serious injuries over the coming decade”.

Going by that Genter’s headline – no loss of life is acceptable – is misleading, she is just talking about “meaningfully reduce deaths and injuries”.

Conventional wisdom is that one has the best opportunity to reach targets and achieve goals, even “audacious” ones, when they are meaningful and realistic.

Anything else can undermine the effort and become self-defeating.

Ministers should promote realistic targets or they will be hammered.

Back in New Zealand, what’s possibly of more concern is that Genter appears to be doubling down after her suggestion of lowering the speed limit to 70km/h for most New Zealand roads sparked outrage and was effectively run down by the prime minister.

“Clear, truly ambitious targets drive policy and help deliver meaningful change,” says Genter.

One wonders what kind of policy avenues one might drive down in pursuit of a zero-deaths target.

Especially if Genter remains in power and the road toll doesn’t drop quickly and dramatically.

The Associate Minister and her fellow Greens need to get used to one very salient fact. Yes, we need cycling, rail and other public transport options as part of the mix, but cars are not going anywhere. They are more likely to be powered by electricity in the future than the much-maligned fossil fuels, but they will remain the main transport option for the great majority of Kiwis for many decades to come. Especially those beyond the bigger centres.

Equally condescending is that Genter wants local government to “be brave enough to take the action that we know is going to save lives, and to bring the community with us”.

That underplays the crucial role of central government in pushing the road toll either up or down.

Guard rails and rumble strips make sense; taking money that might be spent on improving the quality of our roads and highways, used by millions of people and a known factor in road accidents, does not.

Genter is neither a child nor a beauty pageant contestant. She is a Minister of the Crown, which means she should be delivering facts, not fantasy.

Genter needs to wake up to the reality that being in Government requires sensible and achievable goals. The Green training ground seems to have prepared their MPs with a belief that they can perform miracles – like fixing climate problems, eliminating poverty, giving everyone perfect and permanent housing, ensuring everyone has the same amount of money, and no one gets hurt on roads.

An unrealistic and unattainable goal like zero road deaths won’t fool most people, and eventually even dedicated and unquestioning Green supports may start to have doubts about their religion, but that is unlikely to change quickly.