discussion around how best New Zealand can improve its comparatively poor road
safety performance is needed, it is essential that policy changes address the
principal drivers of declining performance if we are to have any hope of
turning the road toll around,“ says Stephen Selwood CEO of Infrastructure NZ.
“New Zealand’s road
safety performance, as measured by road deaths, steadily improved from the
1980s right through until 2013. The improvement was significant, with some
12,300 lives between 1990 to 2012 ‘saved’ due to the reduction in annual road
deaths over these 22 years.
Infometrics undertaken that year found that 10,000 of these ‘saved lives’ could
be explained by three factors:
- Improvements in vehicles,
including better crash performance and fewer motorbikes (45 percent);
- Improvements in infrastructure,
including more and better roads (19 percent); and
- Improvements in driver
behaviour resulting from things like breath testing, advertising and speed
monitoring (36 percent).
“However, from 2013,
our road toll began to turn and after several decades of improvement more
people started dying each year.
“In 2017, the Ministry
of Transport contracted Deloitte Access Economics to investigate why safety had
started to deteriorate. Their report found no one factor responsible, but that
increasing vehicle kilometres travelled (VKTs) and a growth in motorbike
registrations primarily explained fluctuations in New Zealand’s road trauma.
“In other words, there
is yet to be strong evidence to show a change in driver behaviour is behind the
reversal in performance and that, while initiatives including lower driving
speeds and stricter monitoring are likely to have some impact, they will not address
the root cause.
“If we really want to
lower the road toll we need to look at the volume of traffic (vehicle
kilometres travelled, or VKTs) on New Zealand roads and whether these roads
adequately provide for all users.
“The amount driven has
increased substantially in recent years. Over a billion kilometres extra were
travelled on our roads in 2017 versus 2016 – an increase of 5 per cent in just
one year. We’re driving 13.3 per cent more than we did a decade ago.
“In the same ten year
period, the length of sealed and unsealed road increased by 2 per cent.
“Many more vehicle
kilometres travelled on roughly the same amount of road increases risk taking.
Deloitte found that over the short term a 1 percent increase in VKTs is
associated with a 2.5 percent increase in crashes.
particularly light commercial vehicles making deliveries in the Amazon-age, are
using roads not designed for such a high volume of traffic. Drivers are taking
risks to pull out of driveways and intersections, resulting in more accidents.
“Adding to the
challenge, growing focus on active transport has increased the number of
vulnerable road users, each competing for the same under-funded roading
resource, resulting in higher casualties.
“A priority for turning
around New Zealand’s road toll must be to ensure investment in our road system
is keeping pace with growth in traffic volumes.
“The current funding
model requires fuel charges to cover the majority of transport spending, from
walking and cycling to public transport, as well as our road network.
expect investment in roads and rail to improve competitiveness, grow the
economy, unlock land for housing, improve environmental outcomes and provide
access to isolated communities.
“The system cannot cope.
A complete overhaul of how and why we fund transport is required, not only to
improve safety but to progress much broader economic, social and environmental
objectives,” Selwood says.
A copy of the
Deloitte report Qualitative
and Quantitative Analysis of the New Zealand Road Toll can be found
A copy of the Infometrics report Econometric Analysis of the Downward
Trend in Road Fatalities since 1990 can be found here.
For further information and comment contact
Stephen Selwood on 021 791 209