The government’s road safety strategy is failing on all but one goal

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The country’s annual toll has reached 333 deaths.
Photo: RNZ/Priti Garude

The government’s strategy to reduce road deaths and injuries has failed to meet all but one of its targets, with breath testing and lowering speed limits falling behind the most.

It comes as the country’s annual road tolls hit 333 deaths, up from last year and on its way to 2018’s abysmal benchmark of 378 road deaths.

Waka Kotahis

The annual report shows that only one of the six measures for the Road to Zero strategy for the year to the end of June has been met.

It is working with the police and other agencies, including WorkSafe and local government, to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries by 40 percent from 2018 levels by 2030.

AA road safety spokesman Dylan Thomsen said he was disappointed that the country’s annual road tolls now go back to 2018.

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“We’ve been on the Road to Zero strategy for three years and we’re looking at road fatalities that are about at par with that benchmark for our starting point. That shows we haven’t made that much progress over the years, which is really disappointing.”

Waka Kotahi said the number of deaths and serious injuries was still “unacceptably high” but that it was on track to reach the 2030 Road to Zero target. There were 2,598 road deaths and injuries in the year to the end of June, compared to 2,757 the previous year.

The agency said that while progress had been made in reducing road deaths, several of its key programs were underperforming and it should improve its performance.

Passive breath testing and screening fell nearly half the target, with 1.6 million tests against a target of three million.

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Waka Kotahi said this was “well below the desired level” as police were redeployed to assist in the country’s Covid-19 response at regional border checkpoints and MIQ facilities.

Thomsen said breath testing was crucial to preventing alcohol-related road deaths.

“Coming out of Covid, we expect alcohol testing to rise again around the three million it is aiming for. If not, it will be hugely disappointing.”

It’s not the first year that the Road to Zero strategy has failed to meet all of its goals – last year it was a long way from the goals for highway safety upgrades, which it still lags behind.

Waka Kotahi’s annual report says lower speed limits have been imposed on only 100 miles (165 km) of road, compared to a target of 310 miles (500 km), as community involvement has taken longer than expected.

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It met its goal of initiating safe system interventions at four intersections, fell short of mobile camera hours due to camera failures, fell one project short of its goal for infrastructure safety projects and safety advertising campaign success rate, and fell just short of a target of 86 percent due to the limited focus on traditional advertising channels.

The agency said it would work with its Road to Zero partners to “improve our delivery performance for our infrastructure and speed management actions, vehicle safety, traffic policing, and road safety advertising and education.”

The annual report also covers state and local road improvements, which in some cases fell short of targets due to ongoing Covid-19 impacts such as supply chain disruptions, cost escalation and increased time taken to obtain consents and approvals.