Garner is onto it with road safety

Duncan Garner talks about the focus on foriegn drivers and the silly ideas to force them to sit tests upon arrival.

Another horror holiday road toll, another round of national angst about foreign drivers.

It must be every motorist’s worst nightmare – rounding a corner to see more than 1000kg of metal hurtling towards you on your side of the road (regardless of the other driver’s ethnicity).

Are we being racist when it comes to foreign drivers? At first glance the numbers suggest there’s good reason for concern.

In 2013 overseas drivers were involved in at least 558 crashes resulting in death or injury. It may have been as high as 800 crashes according to the Transport Agency but they don’t collect data from every crash.

In three-quarters of the incidents, the foreigners were found at fault. Eleven of the crashes were fatal.

Grim reading. But it’s pretty clear the Government isn’t going to buckle and force visitors to sit some sort of driving test before they grab the keys to a rental car and set off on the open road.

Some safety advocates want travellers banned from renting cars unless they pass an online driving test. Some have called for drivers to sit a practical test. But that’s just not “practical” is it?

Where are these people meant to do it? Drive a car around a busy airport car park? And really, how effective would it be.

Take the recent incidence with an Australian driver…do these advocates for testing really think Aussie drivers should have to sit tests. Are NZ drivers really the most awesome drivers int he world and all those filthy firriners are the cause of the problem?

Our roads are the wild west, and some pathetic online or car park test isn’t going to prove anything. I have rented cars overseas and never sat any practical or online test. It doesn’t happen in America. And they drive on the other side of the road. All you need there is a driver’s licence and a credit card.

The Prime Minister has already said the laws here don’t need to be tightened and he’s not overly concerned about the crash rate. It’s pretty dismissive. John Key – remember he’s also the Tourism Minister – says the crash rate of foreigners is largely consistent and not “a big issue”.

It isn’t a big issue.

The Government, it seems, doesn’t want to scare off the tourists and send all the wrong messages. But that doesn’t mean there’s not another answer. The answer of course is to build better, wider and safer roads.

That means more median barriers – because they save lives. Let’s stop spending the millions we do on road safety messages and expensive television campaigns. They’ve done their dash and no longer work. We’ve become immune to the shock images and messages. The road toll isn’t improving or coming down; 294 people died on our roads last year, 40 more than 2013.

Yes, the road toll fluctuates, but it’s still too high and we should change our approach.

The AA wants more median barriers on highways. It says it would help in its goal of having the road toll under 200 by 2020. To reduce the numbers of deaths on our roads we need more median barriers.

The focus on the number of the road toll is doomed to failure…as the population grows it stands to reason that the road toll will grow too. It is unrealistic to expect the road toll to drop below 200 when the population of New Zealand is expected to reach 5million sometime before 2021 and close to 7 million by 2068. It stands to reason with a higher population that there will be more cars, more drivers and consequently more accidents. Focussing on a raw number of road deaths seems to me to be self defeating.

Garner is right though…focussing on fixing our roads is better bang for our taxpayer buck in terms of road safety.

They work. Just look at the data in Wellington reported this week.

The region recorded the lowest level of road deaths per capita on both sides of the Tasman. Why? Because finally Wellington was seeing the benefits of more median barriers being built across the region.

The big one is the centre barrier that runs up Centennial Highway, south of Paekakariki. I drove that road a lot before the barrier was installed and after. I felt so much safer with the barrier in place. It’s 3.5 kilometres long and only cost $15 million.

The Centennial Highway barrier has been hit more than 100 times without any deaths occurring. Before it was installed in 2005 there were 15 fatal and serious crashes. You can’t miss the roadside white crosses as you drive this stretch of road.

The new Waikato expressway is wide and safe too. There’s little chance of a head-on crash there. The northern motorway extension north of Auckland has a median barrier running up the middle. Little chance of a head-on there.


And yet this is also precisely where the Police set up their speed cameras.


– Fairfax

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.