So not speed then, a better focus on improving roads

The Police have constantly claimed that lower road tolls are as a result of their focus on speed.

That went spectacularly wrong this holiday period just gone when the road toll ballooned and so did the national road toll.

By constantly claiming it was their actions that lowered the toll the Police set themselves up for failure. If, instead, they had talked about improved vehicle construction utilising side intrusion beams, air bags, crumple zones etc plus discussed roading improvements, then their credibility might still be intact.

As a case in point there is news out of Wellington regarding road design that proves my point.

Wellington’s roads were the envy of Australasia last year, with the region recording the lowest level of road deaths per capita on both sides of the Tasman.

Figures compiled by the Ministry of Transport and the Automobile Association show there were 12 road deaths across Wellington, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Kapiti and Wairarapa in 2014 – 2.4 deaths for every 100,000 people living in the region. That was the lowest per capita rate across both New Zealand and Australia.

Auckland was the next best, with 39 deaths, or 2.5 per 100,000 people.    

The Australian territory with the best record was ACT, which had the same number of road deaths per capita as Auckland. The next best was New South Wales (4.1).

Wellington city councillor and president of the New Zealand Traffic Institute Andy Foster said the Wellington region was seeing the benefits of more median barriers being installed across its state highway network.

A star was the 3.5-kilometre, $15 million barrier on the Centennial Highway south of Paekakariki. In the 10 years before it was installed in 2005, there were 15 fatal and serious crashes.

Since it was built, the barrier has been struck more than 100 times without a single death.

With work having started this week on a median barrier for the SH58 route between Porirua and Hutt Valley, Foster hoped the region’s road safety record would improve further.

Right now I think we are about as low as the road toll will ever get. With an increasing population and more cars on the road reducing it further is probably statistically impossible.

Therefore the greatest impact for road safety is actually on improving our road network. Building more dual carriageways and freeways between cities, removing dangerous bends and improving road surfaces.

Until then if the Police can just shut up about their grand efforts in targeting speed as the single biggest impact on road safety then things will probably improve for them


– Fairfax


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  • corporate refugee

    If the police are all about improving safety, how come most of their speed cameras and patrol cars are seen lurking alongside roads that inherently the most safe (dual carriageways with median barriers)? Funny that.

    • Not Clinically Insane

      Case in point. This afternoon on the motorway north from Wellington there was a camera at Johnsonville and a bike with a gun at Tawa….

      • corporate refugee

        I’ve just driven from Warkworth to Auckland. No police or speed cameras on the section north of Puhoi (the dangerous single carriageway section, many crashes) but two vehicle-mounted speed cameras on the far safer, barriered dual carriageway section south of Puhoi. Whoever is responsible for this farce should be ashamed of themselves.

  • MrBarrington

    They would gain a lot of credibility by focusing on recalcitrant high speed drivers on roads not built for speed… taxing people for going 2km/h over the 100km/h limit on roads perfectly capable to handing 110km/h speeds is just insulting the populations’ intelligence and make people just think it is a cheap revenue gathering device.

    If the cops said they were going to focus on high speed diving on dangerous roads and difficult driving conditions then we would support them…

  • Justsayn

    We also need to educate people on how to use multi laned roads. Two simple rules of being polite (and the first of them is actually a legal requirement):

    1. Keep left unless passing on the motorways (don’t hog the right hand lanes); and
    2. At passing lanes don’t speed up beyond your cruising speed just because there is an extra lane (that stops the passing lane filtering cars into their cruising speed order).

  • Mad Captain

    There’s so much more to this than speed, as we all know. A couple of examples:

    1. Road signage. When driving in Australia the first thing I notice is that there are many more large signs giving good directions to destinations. Back in NZ it’s a completely different story and leaving Auckland airport I wouldn’t have a clue how to get to Auckland City if I wasn’t a local. I wonder if those poor buggers who died after being t-boned south of Whangarei recently had missed the small sign to Waipu (their destination) and were doing a u-turn to get back to the turnoff?

    2. Councils. This morning on my way to work I pulled out of an intersection where the grass at the side of the road hasn’t been mowed for some months. It is so high I can’t see any car coming from my right as I turn across them. How long before someone is killed running the gauntlet?

    I can’t help feeling the cops are over-policing the speed part of the equation, maybe in some ways to make up for the lack of attention by others who are also responsible for road safety.

    • pisces8284 .

      I agree. Towns/cities need to get someone who doesn’t live there to try and find their way around using street signs – and act on their conclusions. Especially when you have to choose lanes…..

  • Second time around

    Changing the lights rule would help too: at the moment you have to have lights on only 30 minutes AFTER legal sunset. In some American states you have to use them in rain, and with modern everlasting light bulbs, there is little reason not to have some lighting on all the time. It’s much safer when you can clearly see what other traffic is around you.

  • R&BAvenger

    Improving roads would include projects like the 4 laning of Russley Road/State Highway 1, that is the Western by-pass by Christchurch Airport.
    A significant section was due to start construction last October until there were 2 ‘last minute’ objections to the scheme, with a hearing expected in March.
    This roading is crucial for Christchurch’s roading network and road safety overall, yet is held up through RMA bollocks.
    reform the RMA now!!

  • philbest

    I suggest a correlation that is likely to be responsible for Wellington region’s low road toll: the b—-y low speeds that motorists are forced to drive due to the utterly inadequate network. If you look at the TomTom Traffic Index, Wellington’s delay per 1 hour of driving at peak is 47 minutes. To put this in context, Auckland is 45 minutes, Los Angeles is 40 minutes (worst in the USA), Indianapolis, Nashville, Salt Lake City and others comparable to Auckland are 15 minutes; Boise, Wichita, Provo-Orem and others comparable to Wellington are 7 minutes – etc.
    We have been lied to flat out about the respective consequences of sprawl and low density and road building – those US cities are around 1/3 our density.

  • peterwn

    Andy should have also said that SH58 (SH1 Plimmerton – SH2 Haywards) is getting a more major makeover than just median barriers. It is currently the ‘blackest’ main highway in Wellington region. Trouble is Julie Genter and her Taliban Green mates do not want better roads.

  • Wallace Westland

    Agreed re the roads but also add that cars are a heck of a lot safer too and the cops can’t take any credit for that either.
    With all the vehicle movements on Auckland’s motorway and the low number of fatalities most of which seem to happen at night you’d think these guys would understand where the real fatal areas are and sorry…I’m afraid it’s not at the bottom of a dip on East Coast Rd.

  • kiwirog

    I visited Wellington recently and although they slowed me down there logical choices and signage re speed limits gained my total respect.

    Suburban shopping precincts like Miramar and Haititi were 30 km areas with 30 written in large type at several points on the road as well as on signs. Other areas like Karaka Bay were 40 km. Yet I think you could go 70 on the open road out to the airport.

    In Chch its 50 km all the way from Ferrymead to Sumner even though the estuary should be 70 km, Redcliffs shops 40km, the bit by shag rock 60 km and Sumner 30 km.

    Sensible rules get respect and compliance.

    • Nic C

      That last line of your post Kiwi, is arguably the best ‘one liner’ encapsulation of the entire ‘Speed vs. Road Toll’ debate (IMHO). A very difficult premise to refute or attempt to argue to the contrary… and yet they continually try and do just that. Shame really.

  • Sooty

    You watch, the police will be trotting out all the reports and experts to justify their case.

  • If people conformed to the speed limit on NZ roads, then in most areas we would be dead in less than 15 minutes.

    Obviously what safety boils down to is the drivers willingness and ability to drive to the conditions. Not speed limits.