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Published: 2012-07-03 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is reviewing a high level action plan identifying ways to significantly reduce the region’s road-related fatalities and serious injury crashes.

The regional transport committee yesterday heard that most actions identified in the Waikato Regional Road Safety Strategy 2009-2012 had been met over the past three years.

At the current rate, Waikato is expected to have halved the number of road related fatalities by 2027 – 13 years earlier than the original target. But the aim to reduce road related serious injuries by 25 per cent by 2040 is behind target.

The committee heard that since 2009 extensive education campaigns have been delivered and a programme of effective advocacy to Government has been completed around safe roads and roadsides, safe vehicles and safe road use.

However, the area of least progress was around safe speeds.

Regional council travel behaviour change coordinator Jo Carling said the policy around safe speeds would be updated in the new strategy to take account of the NZ Transport Agency’s (NZTA) Safer Journeys objectives.

“This area directly influences crash severity and outcome,” she said. “But there is an opportunity to build public awareness and support for speed management through consistent communication delivered regionally.”

Acting committee chairperson, Waikato regional councillor Paula Southgate, said it was clear that a regionally consistent approach was required to safer speeds.

“The committee generally agrees that right now on rural roads there are speed limits which are too high. While limits cannot be changed overnight, there is a clear need for more streamlining to ensure speed limits are consistent across the Waikato for road users.”

Among other points raised for consideration at the meeting:

  • Increased roadside rest stops are needed for people travelling long distances.
  • Power poles and trees should not be allowed along roadside boundaries as they are a hazard which can result in serious injury or death in a crash.
  • Blood alcohol limits and drug testing needs to be reviewed, and the policing resources put in place to support it.

Cr Southgate said: “Legislation has an important role to play in improving road safety and our new strategy may include advocacy for appropriate levels of regulation around such things as blood alcohol limits.”

Over the next six weeks, the regional council will be joining with the NZTA to talk to key stakeholders. The discussions will centre on embedding a safe system approach to reduce road carnage in the Waikato. Further discussions held with stakeholders over the next six months will inform the draft strategy, to be produced by the end of this year.

The safe system approach is in line with international best practice and the Government’s Safer Journeys strategy, and has been instrumental in significantly reducing road trauma in many European countries. It aims to create a forgiving road system resulting in a reduction in fatal and serious crashes – one in which human error does not result in a loss of life.

It is a fundamentally different approach based on working across all elements that contribute to road safety: safe road users, safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, and safe vehicles.

Glenn Bunting, NZTA’s network manager – planning, told the committee that the collaborative road safety delivery model used in the Waikato is best practice and is being promoted to other regions.

“The tiered arrangement is reflective of the national regional planning and delivery type model that provides the best results,” he said.