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Published: 2013-05-06 00:00:00

A high level action plan to reduce the region’s road-related fatalities and serious injury crashes has today been approved by the regional transport committee.

Waikato Regional Council has spent the past 12 months consulting with the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and key stakeholders, including local councils, on the 2013-16 road safety strategy. 

This strategy uses the ‘safe system’ methodology to identify the key focus areas for road safety.  It sets the policy framework and a plan of action to be implemented across the region over the next three years and also defines the work that will need to happen over the medium term in order to best position the region for the future. 

Regional council travel behaviour change coordinator Jo Carling said the Waikato was leading the way nationally in its coordinated and strategic approach to road safety initiatives. 

“The Waikato has stepped up to respond to issues in the region, and we remain committed to the regional vision of working towards zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads,” Ms Carling said. 

The committee heard that a key priority for the region over the next three years will be the development of a regionally consistent ‘one network’ approach to road safety risk assessment and interventions. This will in turn assist with the roll-out of consistent regional speed management programmes, safety infrastructure, road user education and fleet safety programmes. 

Committee chairman and Waikato regional councillor Norm Barker said there are many factors responsible for Waikato’s high road toll, such as the physical roading environment, high volumes of traffic, behaviour of road users and the safety of the vehicles themselves. 

“The responsibility for addressing these issues lies with a good many of us – politicians, planners, engineers, police, professional drivers and the general public. We all have a role to play,” said Cr Barker. 

Last year 65 people died on Waikato roads and many hundreds more were hospitalised with serious injuries resulting from crashes. 

“Two years ago this committee made road safety one of the top three strategic transport priorities for the region. We have a clear vision for safety and have set some tough targets, with an aim to halve our road toll by 2040.” 

The strategy also has a focus on alcohol and drug impaired driving. “The regional transport committee will continue to lobby central government for a reduced legal blood alcohol limit for all adult drivers and random drug testing by police. 

“The introduction of these long overdue measures has the potential to substantially reduce the level of carnage on our roads,” Cr Barker said. 

The ‘safe system’ approach, used in the Waikato since 2009, is in line with international best practice and the Government’s Safer Journeys strategy. A key priority over the next three years will be embedding the ‘safe system’ approach into all road safety planning. 

The approach 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 – and has been instrumental in significantly reducing road trauma in many European countries. 

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. 

The 2013-16 strategy is due to be adopted by the Waikato Regional Council at its next meeting later this month.