Road to Zero: Enhanced drug testing, licence review part of plan to end road deaths

The Government's proposed plan to end road deaths involves enhanced drug detection, a driver licence review and lower speed limits - the latter which hasn't gone down well with National. 

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter unveiled a consultation document on Wednesday which seeks public feedback on the Government's road safety plan. 

The plan adopts the Vision Zero approach which originates from Sweden. It aims to achieve a system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. 

"We do not expect to eliminate road deaths overnight but we can, over time, improve our roads so that simple mistakes do not result in devastating consequences," Genter said. 

The Government is proposing to set a target to reduce annual deaths and serious injuries by 40 percent by 2030 taking into account the 377 people killed last year.

"If achieved, this would prevent 750 deaths and 5600 serious injuries on New Zealand roads over the next 10 years," Genter, a Green Party MP, claimed.  

"The new target would be achieved primarily by increasing investment in road safety infrastructure over the next decade."

Green MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has advocated for lowering speed limits.
Green MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has advocated for lowering speed limits. Photo credit: Getty

But investing in road safety infrastructure is just one of a range of proposals in the discussion document. It also suggests enhancing drug driver testing, raising vehicle safety standards, and reviewing driver licencing. 

It also proposes enhancing safety for footpaths, bike lanes and cycleways, as well as reviewing financial penalties, implementing a mandatory anti-skid braking system, and reducing speed limits. 

"A critical issue in New Zealand is that approximately 87 percent of our current speed limits are not appropriate for the conditions of our roads," the paper says. 

"Reducing travel speeds across parts of the network is one of the most efficient and immediate things we could do to reduce trauma."

National leader Simon Bridges disagreed. He said Genter was "completely out of touch with New Zealanders" and that reducing speed limits was not the solution to safety. 

"Kiwis lead busy lives and we don't need the Government telling us to go at a slower pace. We would rather see our tax dollars spent on new, high-quality roads that are safe to travel on at 100km."

Genter has strongly advocated for the change. She said in May that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) was actively looking at reducing the speed limit on some roads to reduce fatalities. 

But the agency's proposal to slash speed limits on three Northland state highways - where limits would be dropped by 20km/h - has been met with mixed reactions

The National Party could get behind the Government's proposal to enhance drug driver testing - an issue National MP Nick Smith has regularly called for action on. 

National MP Nick Smith has strongly advocated for drug driver roadside testing.
National MP Nick Smith has strongly advocated for drug driver roadside testing. Photo credit: Getty

However, another recent discussion document highlighted how drug driver testing might "conflict" with the Government's health-based approach to drug law reform. 

The discussion document says the Ministry of Transport is developing ways to enhance drug-driver detection and is considering "a mix of infringement and criminal penalties (including health referrals for drugged drivers)". 

The Government has increased funding for road safety education and announced a $1.4 billion investment in road safety in December. 

Over the next 10 years, it plans to advance advertising and education programmes to "build a social licence for the type of changes we need to see", and encourage more "empathetic and considerate" behaviour on roads.

"Drivers have to do better, and we're investing more in driver training and education, with new programmes targeted at helping younger drivers get their license and develop safe driving skills," Genter said. 

The Government plans to crackdown on drivers who are intoxicated on drugs and alcohol.
The Government plans to crackdown on drivers who are intoxicated on drugs and alcohol. Photo credit: Getty

The paper said police have been focused on impaired driving from alcohol, drugs and fatigue, speed, distracted driving - especially from mobile phone use - and not wearing seatbelts or using a child restraint.

The plan to raise safety standards for vehicles entering New Zealand is another area that's been strongly touted. Last month a report revealed it was considering banning the importation of cars with low safety ratings. 

Genter has insisted that none of those vehicles with low safety ratings will receive discounts under the Government's proposed subsidising of low emissions vehicles. 

The Government is seeking feedback on the road safety proposals which can be found here. Consultation will run for four weeks and close on 14 August.

Newshub.

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