The first year of the Decade of Action for Road Safety has been marked by some of the most significant road safety developments in decades.
Since New Zealand’s launch of the Decade of Action on May 11, 2011, there have been several changes to our laws and road rules that will help reduce the amount of people killed and hurt on our roads. These include:
- The restricted licence test being made much harder
- Two new give way rules coming into force
- Alcohol interlocks on cars becoming a sentencing option for serious drink drivers
- A zero alcohol limit for youth drivers being introduced
The AA campaigned for all of these changes and over the next few years they will help New Zealand progress towards its Decade of Action goals by making our intersections safer, increasing the skills of our most at risk drivers and reducing the risks from impaired drivers.
There is still much more that can be done in the last two areas, and the AA is currently in the process of partnering in a community programme to help provide training to disadvantaged young drivers and continues to challenge the Government to take different approaches to better deal with repeat drink drivers and to introduce roadside drug testing in a similar style to breathalysers.
The AA has also created the AA Research Foundation to lead research into New Zealand road safety issues and the foundation held a symposium last year bringing together some of the leading national and international experts on the issues of driver distraction and fatigue.
Improving the quality and safety of our roads is another key to delivering on our decade of action goals and the AA is calling on the Government to spend more each year on things like median barriers and removing hazards from our riskiest stretches of road.
New Zealanders also drive older vehicles than many other countries (the average age of our light vehicle fleet is 13 years) and this impacts on our road safety. The AA is pushing for regulations that would require vehicles being imported here to meet minimum safety standards so that over time we get more people in cars that will protect them better from crashes.
We’re not going to see an overnight change to vastly improved road safety, but the first year of the Decade has been marked with some fantastic results. New Zealand’s annual road toll for 2011 was the lowest since 1952, we had the first fatality free Easter weekend on record and achieved the lowest monthly road toll in our history with just 12 deaths in April 2012.
These historic achievements prove that deaths and injuries on our roads are not inevitable and we can do much better in terms of protecting people.
There has been plenty to celebrate in the first year of the Decade but the real and permanent change we are working towards is going to take time. New Zealand has not committed to any targets in terms of road crashes by the end of the Decade of Action but our recent successes show that there is no reason why by 2020 we cannot achieve the goal of halving our road toll to under 200 and having a similar reduction in the amount of serious injuries.