The Government is investigating setting a target of zero road deaths, the Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter has revealed.
“I accept that a target of zero deaths would be audacious, but ambitious targets are needed to focus the resources of both central and local government to save lives on our roads,” she says.
The new strategy was unveiled on Monday morning at the Local Government Road Safety Summit in Wellington.
At the moment, there is no long-term target to reduce deaths, or serious injuries, in the road safety strategy.
The road toll over the Easter period was eight – the highest toll in eight years.
Genter says the “ambitious” target of zero deaths on the road has been a success overseas, in countries such as Canada, Sweden and Norway, which all aim for a zero-road toll and have had “considerably lower fatality rates than New Zealand.”
The development of a new road safety strategy will take until September 2019 and be ready for implementation in 2020.
It will outline the steps New Zealand will take to meaningfully reduce deaths and serious injuries over the coming decade.
In the meantime, Genter says the Government intends to push forward with actions where there is strong evidence of effectiveness.
She says the Government’s 2018 Draft Policy Statement on land transport is one way this will be done.
Last week, when unveiling details of the statement, Minister of Transport Phil Twyford said the number of deaths on New Zealand roads was unacceptable.
“The fatality rate per billion kilometres travelled has risen 16% between 2013 and 2016,” he said.
Genter says the funding boost mooted in the draft statement will have a particular focus on proven safety treatments, like median and side barriers.
“We’re also considering a significant funding boost to deliver safe walking and cycling infrastructure in our towns and cities.”
She says over the next year, the Government will consider a number of options for reducing harm on the road.
“[These] include improving the safety of vehicles entering New Zealand, reducing speeds around schools, and will implement mandatory alcohol interlock device systems for repeat drunk drivers.”
Time for Government to ‘walk the talk’
National says if the Government was serious about reducing the number of deaths on New Zealand roads, it would adopt Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott’s Member’s Bill to introduce roadside drug tests.
He says Genter appears to be refusing to take the advice of officials and experts to adopt roadside saliva testing.
“Local governments know the impact that drugged drivers have on their communities. The Summit today would have been the perfect opportunity to discuss roadside drug testing.
“It’s time for the Government to walk the talk and adopt my Member’s Bill.”