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Published: 2010-07-08 00:00:00

All local roads not being equal, the introduction of a new safety ‘star’ rating for New Zealand’s roads generally will help improve safety on the Waikato’s high-risk rural roads.

Environment Waikato’s Regional Transport Committee has received an update from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) on the second stage of the KiwiRAP road safety programme for rural state highways, which features the Star Ratings road classification system.

The ratings system is a new approach to informing motorists about road risk according to road environment. The tool will also provide valuable information for cost-effective decision making on road safety improvement projects based on risk and need.

The KiwiRAP Star Ratings assess risk based on the factors that lead to the majority of serious injury and fatal crashes on rural state highways, including head-on and intersection crashes and vehicles running off roads. High-tech equipment is used to measure the safety of features such as horizontal alignment, lane width, terrain, shoulder quality, sight distance, roadside hazards and speed environment.

Rural state highways are then star rated from one-star (least safe) to five-star (most safe) in terms of engineering safety features.

Figures presented to the committee showed 58 per cent of the Waikato region’s rural roads are currently rated three-star, indicating a medium safety level. A further 39 per cent are two-star and the remaining 3 per cent are four-star rated. Overall, 95 per cent of road usage on Waikato rural roads is on roads rated two to three-star.

NZTA chief safety advisor Colin Brodie said the biggest safety gains could be made to rural state highways by taking them from two-stars to three or four-stars. "The star rating tool will allow the NZTA to be more proactive in identifying where safety improvements will have an impact across the state highway network."

Committee members acknowledged the initiative’s strong links to the Regional Road Safety Strategy and its alignment with the Government’s Safer Journeys 2020 Strategy which provides for a safe system approach to road safety improvement.

KiwiRAP, formed in 2006, is part of an international family of Road Assessment Programmes (RAP) partnered by the Ministry of Transport, the NZ Automobile Association, the Accident Compensation Commission, police and NZTA.

Road assessment programmes internationally consist of three protocols - risk mapping, star rating and performance tracking. Released in 2008, KiwiRAP’s first protocol "Risk Mapping" rated sections of state highways from low to high risk based on historical crash data.

Risk maps show where crashes occur but not necessarily why. The Star Rating protocol will help answer that "why" question.

For more information on KiwiRAP and the Star Ratings results visit www.kiwirap.org.nz.