Saturday, November 27

Road safety strategy is not moving fast enough to reduce road toll

The government’s ‘Road to Zero’ strategy to reduce road deaths and injuries falls far short of its goals for road safety improvements.

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Julie Anne Genter, Greens Transportation Spokesperson and former Deputy Minister of Transportation.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Former Deputy Transportation Minister Julie Anne Genter, who launched the latest Road to Zero strategy nearly two years ago, said the failure record showed the Transportation Agency’s “disregard” for the public and should be reviewed.

“It is a shocking failure to deliver on agreed priorities and the CEO must be held accountable,” Greens transportation spokesman Genter said.

She added that she rose to the CEO and board of Waka Kotahi last year, but nothing seemed to have changed.

If New Zealand had the same fatal accident rate as Victoria, Australia, 145 fewer people would have died on the roads last year.

The rate is three times higher than in parts of Scandinavia with similar terrain and demographics, according to a report by Auckland Transport.

Deaths and serious injuries increased from 2013 to 2017, then declined from 2018, but with recent signs of picking up again; 2020 is an anomaly due to less traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Road to Zero aims to offer many thousands of miles of better roads and tighter policing.

However, motorists are now more than twice as likely not to take a breath test as they were eight years ago, and NZTA has done speed management work on just 120 km of the highest risk roads, when the target is 3,500. km by 2024.

“We recognize [this] is very low, “says a Progress report published in July, covering 2020.

The report also shows:

  • 37 km of medium barriers installed, against a target of 300 km by 2024 and 1000 km by 2030
  • 169km of lateral barriers, against 1700km and 4000km targets
  • No high-risk intersections with safety treatment, versus targets of 600 by 2024, 1300 by 2030

“Delays in implementation have meant that the program is falling behind its objectives,” the report says.

Transport Minister Michael Wood attributed this in part to Covid-19.

But Genter said the quieter roads presented the “perfect” opportunity for improvement. But highlighting her experience as a minister, she said the NZTA resisted the government to focus on road construction.

Police were also not making the agreed-upon additional application with additional funding from 2018, he said.

Auckland Transport has criticized this lack of enforcement.

“There is an attitude of contempt among some of the leaders of some of these organizations,” Genter said.

NZTA “has a proven track record of ignoring the opinions of the public and elected representatives.”

“They seem to have their own agenda … and they don’t have much respect for what the public would like to see done with that money.”

‘Road to Zero is one of my highest priorities’ – NZTA boss

Authorities, including Wood and Waka Kotahi, suggested that next year’s progress report would be better.

At the same time, the agency said it needed – and will – “significantly increase” work to meet the 2030 targets.

Nicole Rosie as the New Executive Director of the New Zealand Transport Agency NZTA

Nicole Rosie, Executive Director of NZTA.
Photo: NZTA

Executive Director Nicole Rosie said in a statement, “Bringing Road to Zero is one of my highest priorities, and our determination to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on our roads is unwavering.”

“Road to Zero leadership, governance and reporting have been significantly strengthened over the past 12 months.”

This would be a big change compared to the previous 10-year strategy, Safer Travel, which the Ministry of Transport describes on its website as:

“Although it was based on a strong approach and compelling evidence, it did not have enough buy-in, investment, leadership and accountability to achieve a significant reduction in deaths and injuries.”

The ministry has now established an independent review of Road to Zero road safety improvements and enforcement.

Rosie said she was confident that NZTA would pass the test.

He added that not only depends on the agencies, but on the people to stop accepting a high toll as “the price we all pay to move.”

Recent forensic reports Let’s say that in two recent fatal accidents on State Highway One in Atiamuri near Taupō, intermediate barriers or noise strips could have saved the nine people who died.

The NZTA assured the coroner that the goal was to make the sound strips “universal.”

Highway improvements nationwide are intended to contribute 40 percent to reducing highway tolls by 2030.

The coroner in one of these cases touched on another priority: making the trucks safer. That is also taking longer than promised

Genter said the NZTA request that it was stepping up was its standard response, like when the $ 1.4 billion Secure Network Program that started in 2018 ran into trouble.

“That’s what the organization has been saying for four years … after four years, I would have expected to see some improvement in its ability to deliver on this.”

When he confronted Rosie about Road to Zero last year, “he assured me that there was a lot of action going on … that it was an extremely high priority.”

“So a year and a half later … why hasn’t anything changed?”

Ministers lacked the power to intervene and should seek organizational or personnel changes, he said.

Another “immediate priority” from Road to Zero is stricter enforcement against speeding, drunk driving and other risky driving.

The progress report barely mentions it.

However, official figures show that between 2013 and 2020, the number of breathalyzer tests dropped by half: from 3 million to 1.3 million (2019) and then 1.6 million (2020), while the number of alcohol- or drug-related road deaths more than doubled. 73 to 160.

As for speed cameras, more were supposed to be released this year, but not before 2023 at the very least.

Police told Auckland Transport that they were increasing enforcement.

A report backed this year by Auckland Transport suggested that the Ministry of Transport was too slow with the regulatory change at Road to Zero; and “not vigorously pursue highly effective regulatory reform opportunities that most OECD countries are utilizing.”

Details of the progress report move around laws and rules to make it easier to lower speed limits, impose tougher penalties on sprinters, make vehicles safer, and introduce a more graduated driver’s license system.

A new governance group and ministerial oversight group were being established to oversee and account for Road to Zero, the ministry said, although the national road safety committee that withdrew in 2019 has yet to be replaced.

Genter said ministers lacked the power to enforce the targets.

“I don’t know what else I could have done.

“In the first year or two, it’s plausible to say they have to build capacity, they have to improve consent, they don’t have enough money. But four years later … it’s pretty clear now that funding priorities are unchanged.” .

Minister Wood said nearly $ 3 billion will go to Road to Zero over the next three years. Its road improvement figures dating back to 2018 are 300 km of new safety barriers and more than 3,000 km of noise strips.

Reaching the Road to Zero goal would mean by 2030:

  • 227 road deaths vs. 318 in 2020
  • serious injuries in 1560 vs 2200 in 2020

Police have been contacted for comment.

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