While the global Covid-19 pandemic has added uncertainty to what the next Government can commit to, the AA has identified solutions we believe are possible in the short to medium term to make our transport safer, better and greener. These 12 election calls are based on AA Members’ responses to surveys, issues raised by our District Councils around the country, AA Research Foundation work and our own policy analysis. Here we touch on just some of those calls.
Making transport safer
Reviving essential road maintenance
Improving existing roads is the number one area that our Members want more Government investment in, ahead of improving public transport, more road policing or building new roads.
Our surveys have also shown growing dissatisfaction with the quality and maintenance of roads in recent years. The experience of drivers encountering potholes and poor road surfaces on major highways has become more common, and the hard data tells the same story.
The amount spent on road maintenance fell below sustainable levels during the last decade and we now need to play catch-up. There has been a welcome increase in maintenance spending recently, but it’s not enough and the AA is calling for an increase of more than $300 million in road maintenance spending each year from the next Government.
Evidence clearly shows that maintenance and the quality of the road surface has a real impact on safety. We need to bring our roads back up to the standard they should be.
Making transport greener
A clear road map for safer, greener vehicles
More New Zealanders drive older vehicles than people in many other developed countries. There are a range of reasons for this, but it has implications for both the environmental and safety effects of driving.
Being older doesn’t necessarily make a car bad but, in general terms, modern vehicles are more fuel efficient, create less emissions and are more protective in the event of a crash. There is widespread agreement that modernising our fleet will deliver a lot of benefits, but it’s something that is easier said than done. It needs a coordinated effort between the Government and industry over time.
The AA is calling for the authorities and all the key players involved in the vehicle industry to develop a road map for how we can realistically improve our fleet in the decades ahead and the actions needed to get there. This would be the plan for how we accelerate the uptake of low-emissions vehicles like hybrids and electric vehicles, and how we can get more polluting vehicles off the road.
Making transport better
Give drivers more safe places to pass
Struggling to get past slower vehicles and people following too closely are two of the biggest frustrations AA Members have on the roads. In a survey earlier this year, nearly 80% supported increasing the number of passing lanes. The Autumn 2020 issue of AA Directions outlined the AA’s support for more median barriers on our highways.
As median barriers have been proven to massively reduce road deaths and serious injuries, the Government is planning to significantly increase the amount of divided highways over the next decade. We want to see this work combined with more frequent opportunities for passing, like what Sweden has done with its ‘2+1’ roads. These are fully-divided, three-lane highways where the median barrier alternates every few kilometres, so each direction has regular passing opportunities.
More generally, the AA is calling for median barrier projects to be combined with regular passing opportunities or space for slow or stopped vehicles outside of the main traffic flow. These would create win-win situations where we prevent crashes in ways that are welcomed by the public while also improving the driving experience.
Making transport safer
Target cell phone use behind the wheel
At more than 1.7 million strong, the AA’s Membership has a wide range of views on all issues. However, there are some that have extremely strong agreement. The use of cell phones while driving is one of these. Many people report seeing illegal cell phone use on nearly every trip, so clearly the current approach isn’t changing this behaviour.
Overseas experience indicates that simply increasing fines for those caught is not going to solve the problem on its own, so the AA is calling for the next Government to make the reduction of cell phone use by drivers an urgent road safety priority. We need a package of actions that combines better detection, effective penalties, awareness campaigns and technology solutions.
AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon says the aim of the AA’s advocacy is to be a voice for the reasonable motorist.
“These calls reflect areas of strong support and common ground amongst our Members, as well as being realistic and achievable opportunities,” he says.
“Along with the calls written about in detail in this article there are others focussed on reducing alcohol – and drug –impaired driving; giving young people the help and training they need when they are learning to drive and making real progress on rapid transit.
“The AA has promoted all of these to the major political parties in the lead-up to the election and will continue to do so with the next Government. By taking up these calls they can deliver less deaths and injuries on the roads, less environmental harm from driving, less time wasted in traffic and more enjoyable travel for everyone.”
Reported by Dylan Thomsen for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue
Learn more about the AA's Election Calls.