Fresh ap­proach to road deaths is in right direc­tion

Vi­sion Zero is the clear­est way for­ward for greater road safety, says

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

Last Satur­day two men were killed while cross­ing Wyl­lie Rd in Pa­p­a­toe­toe, Auck­land. This was no ac­ci­dent. Their deaths were pre­ventable.

There were 380 avoid­able deaths and thou­sands of se­ri­ous in­juries on our roads in 2017, re­sult­ing in un­told heartache and more than $4 bil­lion in to­tal so­cial costs. Why do we tol­er­ate that? How do we fix that?

As­so­ciate Trans­port Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter raised a few eye­brows last week when she an­nounced a new road safety strat­egy, based on the idea that no loss of life is ac­cept­able. She called for an au­da­cious tar­get of zero deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries. That’s right, zero.

‘‘No other in­dus­try ac­cepts hun­dreds of peo­ple dy­ing each year as nor­mal. No per­son I know thinks los­ing a loved one in a crash is an ac­cept­able price to pay for liv­ing in a mod­ern so­ci­ety,’’ she said.

So is Vi­sion Zero an un­re­al­is­tic dream, or a practical way to re­duce traf­fic harm?

Vi­sion Zero started in Swe­den and was ap­proved by its par­lia­ment in 1997. The traf­fic death rate in Swe­den is half that of New Zealand.

Vi­sion Zero is a radical road safety ap­proach which aims to achieve a trans­port sys­tem with no fa­tal­i­ties or se­ri­ous in­juries.

A core prin­ci­ple of Vi­sion Zero is that life and health can never be ex­changed for other ben­e­fits.

The more tra­di­tional ap­proach is to com­pare costs and ben­e­fits, where a mone­tary value is placed on life and health, and that is used to de­cide how much to spend on a road safety im­prove­ments.

Ev­ery­one makes mis­takes. So we need to de­sign our trans­port sys­tem to ac­count for hu­man fal­li­bil­ity, and min­imise both the op­por­tu­ni­ties for er­rors and the harm done when they oc­cur. That’s a ba­sic prin­ci­ple of health and safety plan­ning across most sec­tors. Why don’t we ap­ply this to trans­port?

Let’s not con­fuse the vi­sion with ob­jec­tives. Vi­sion is where we want to be. Ob­jec­tives are the mile­stones we pass on the jour­ney.

But doesn’t New Zealand’s cur­rent ap­proach, Safe Sys­tem, aim to re­duce deaths and in­juries? Safe Sys­tem is based on safe roads, safe driv­ers, safe

The good news is that there is grow­ing sup­port for an am­bi­tious ap­proach to road safety.

speeds and safe ve­hi­cles.

In my view it lacks am­bi­tion and vi­sion.

Safe Sys­tem ap­pears to be ‘‘busi­ness as usual’’ as the fear is safer (lower) speed lim­its will cur­tail eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity and frus­trate some driv­ers.

This ap­proach vi­o­lates the first prin­ci­ple of Vi­sion Zero road safety: ‘‘Hu­man life and health are paramount and take pri­or­ity over mo­bil­ity and other ob­jec­tives of the road traf­fic sys­tem’’.

Fur­ther­more, it over­states the abil­ity of the posted speed limit to gen­er­ate a high through­put of mo­tor ve­hi­cles, which is typ­i­cally more in­flu­enced by the in­ter­sec­tions, traf­fic lights, traf­fic conges­tion, road works, crashes, and slow mov­ing ve­hi­cles.

The good news is that there is grow­ing sup­port for an am­bi­tious ap­proach to road safety.

I at­tended the Trans­port Sum­mit this week, and can re­port there was broad sup­port from may­ors and coun­cil­lors for a trans­port sys­tem free from deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries. Some lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have al­ready adopted a zero road death ap­proach.

In a pe­ti­tion pre­sented to Gen­ter last Wed­nes­day, Cy­cling Ac­tion Net­work col­lected more than 11,000 sig­na­tures in just a few weeks, call­ing for ac­tion on road safety.

That in­cludes in­vest­ment in pro­tected bike lanes, safer traf­fic speeds, and ed­u­ca­tion for driv­ers and peo­ple on bikes. We all have a part to play.

The task is to have a national con­ver­sa­tion about what the Vi­sion Zero prin­ci­ple means for New Zealand.

Let’s get started – sav­ing lives and pre­vent­ing heartache is worth it.

❚ Pa­trick Morgan is Cy­cle Ac­tion Net­work NZ project man­ager.

PHO­TOS: STUFF

There were 380 avoid­able deaths and thou­sands of se­ri­ous in­juries on our roads in 2017, re­sult­ing in un­told heartache and more than $4 bil­lion in to­tal so­cial costs.

Road safety programmes over­state the im­pact of speed on ve­hi­cle through­put.

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