‘Safer Journeys’ document misses the point

MEDIA RELEASE - 19/08/2009

The government’s ‘Safer Journeys’ discussion document, which seeks public consultation on road safety issues, is mainly a repeat of the failed policies of the past, says the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says the document focuses mainly on changing driver behaviour, while missing out on proven road safety strategies.

“Most scientific studies show that changing driver behaviour is just about the least successful way of saving lives. I know it seems to be perfectly reasonable to tell people to drive properly and then to fine them if they don’t, but there’s actually very little credible evidence that either of these policies work for the people who cause most accidents.”

“The ‘Safer Journeys’ document also misses out on several proven ways of lowering the road toll, says Matthew-Wilson.

“The government has two independent reports showing that we could dramatically lower the road toll if all vehicles used daytime running lights, yet daytime running lights aren’t even mentioned in the ‘Safer Journeys’ document.”

Matthew-Wilson – whose road safety research was awarded by the Australian Police Journal – pointed to World Health Organisation statistics showing that vehicles using daytime running lights have a crash rate 10-15% lower than those that do not.

“The evidence that vehicles are safer with their lights on is overwhelming. The European Commission has ruled that all new cars operating in the EU must have daytime running lights from February 2011. Why has the New Zealand government simply ignored this policy?”

“Maori are also basically ignored in the ‘Safer Journeys’ document, despite being heavily over-represented in road deaths. The government needs to empower Maori and Pacific island communities to educate and train their own people, instead of assuming that one system will work for all races.”

“A survey of young people who drove to a Northland training course showed that 92% had no license. 20% of these people couldn’t get a license because they were illiterate. You can’t say these people are simply criminals; they are part of the great messy underbelly of New Zealand culture. You can fine them, but then you simply make criminals out of people whose main crime was growing up in a poor area.”

“Current road safety campaigns tend to target the average driver, but the average driver is rarely the cause of serious road accidents. Road accidents tend to involve very young people, very old people and people with a poor education. If you look back on the terrible accidents of the last few months, you’ll see that speed cameras and shock tv ads had zero effect on the behaviour of most of the drivers who caused them.”

“It’s better to work out strategies to protect all motorists than to try and change the behaviour of a few.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which used to be the site of one serious accident per week.

“After a concrete barrier was installed down the middle of the bridge, the serious accidents stopped immediately. There’s wasn’t one less sleepy van diver, not one less hoon or drunk driver, and yet the carnage stopped overnight.”