12 May 2015

Govt urged to spend more on road safety

2:35 pm on 12 May 2015

The local authority road safety group says the government could divert spending on the Roads of National Significance and spend more on safety measures to reduce fatalities on the road.

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Photo: 123RF

Ten people died in a series of crashes at the weekend, the most lives claimed in a single weekend for 30 years, prompting calls for a reduced speed limit on certain rural roads.

But road safety advocates said speed was just one measure.

The New Zealand Local Authority Traffic Institute (TRAFINZ) represents local authority views on road safety and traffic management.

Institute president and Wellington councillor Andy Foster said the group had been advocating for years for a dedicated road safety engineering fund, but to date the Government had refused.

"We don't think that's a good call on their part," he said.

"We have dedicated funds for road safety policing, we have dedicated funds for road safety education, but we do not have one for road safety engineering.

"And we think you could save possibly a hundred lives a year over a period of time with a dedicated fund to put in median barriers and edge barriers."

Mr Foster said rural roads encompassed farm roads to state highways between towns, and a blanket speed may not work, so money should be spent on other measures targeting problem areas.

Work had already been done to identify those risk areas and $150 million - $200 million could be set aside for road safety engineering. "Maybe slow down your Roads of National Significance programme."

Levin farmer and former councillor Diane Brown has served on local and regional transport committees, and her husband Errol was a former police inspector who helped establish the serious crash investigation unit.

They are long-time advocates for reducing the rural road speed.

Ms Brown said hazards on the side of roads like power poles needed to be addressed.

"Most of the speed limits don't reflect rural road users and the way they drive on their roads, we need to reduce the speed, but there's lots of other things that go hand in hand with speed and hazards is one of them."

Ms Brown said people should push their local councils to make changes to the limit in problem areas.

The Transport Agency said it was looking at a number of measures to improve safety on the roads as part of the Government's Safer Journey Strategy.

Its director of road safety Ernst Zollner said it was looking at the hazards on the side of the road, introducing median barriers as well as reducing the speed limit on certain parts of the network.

"We're going through and as money becomes available as part of our billion dollar transport programme we are improving the roads and we're doing that in a priority order where the risks are greatest.

"It's a whole package, the vehicle, the driver, making the road safe and where necessary we may also change the speed limit."

Associate transport minister Craig Foss said that if certain roads need to have their speed limit adjusted that will happen.

But he said there would be no national speed reduction as the Government needed to balance the police's view with that of motorists.

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