Government announces $1.4 billion investment in road safety

The Government is to spend $1.4 billion on road safety improvements.

The three-year programme will aim to make 870km of high-volume, high-risk state highways safer by 2021.

Median and side barriers, rumble strips and shoulder widening are all on the table. About half will go on state highways, the rest on local roads.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter say it will prevent an estimated 160 deaths and serious injuries a year.

"Drivers will inevitably make mistakes and it's the Government's job is to stop those mistakes turning into tragedies," Mr Twyford said on Saturday.

"This year, far too many New Zealanders have lost their lives or been seriously injured in crashes that could have been prevented by road safety upgrades."

"Annual road deaths in New Zealand increased from 253 just a few years ago in 2013, to 378 last year," Ms Genter said. "The number of serious injuries increased from 2,020 to 2,836 per year over the same period.

"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 - that's why we're making safety a priority."

But the National Party has criticised the move, saying the investment pales in comparison to its roads of national significance programme.

"Single-lane highways with a line of sticks separating traffic, nowhere to pass and lower speed limits is a poor substitute for the highly engineered, four-lane state highways National was building," transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said.

"Even with the raised 110km/h speed limit, National's Roads of National Significance are some of the safest in New Zealand, and they help Kiwis get to their destination quicker."

Labour Party coalition partner New Zealand First praised the move, especially $36.2 million of investment into SH1 between Wellsford and Warkworth.

"I am proud to be part of this Government which is taking road safety seriously and working to save lives," list MP Jenny Marcroft said. "Our road toll is far too high, and the design of our highways is part of the problem.

"The Dome Valley road was not built with the current levels of traffic in mind and it is great to see that it has been identified as one of the top priorities for investment and improvement."