Campaigner blames government after 8 die on road without median barrier

The New Zealand government has blood on its hands over the latest multiple fatality, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“Eight people are dead because a median barrier was missing off that road. That’s the simple fact. If the government is serious about lowering the road toll, the highest priority must be given to improving the safety of our Third World roads.”

“How many more of these tragedies do we have to put up with before the government takes serious action? We get a section of barrier here, a section of barrier there, but the vast majority of our state highways are an accident waiting to happen.”

“There are thousands of extra cars pouring onto our roads each month, yet many of our roads haven’t improved much since the 1950s.”

A study by Monash University of the effectiveness of roadside fencing and median barriers concluded that: “reductions of up to 90% in death and serious injury can be achieved, with no evidence of increased road trauma for motorcyclists.”

Matthew-Wilson adds that the procedure for improving roads also hasn’t changed much since the 1950s.

“The cost of installing a median barrier ranges from about 1.5 million to 2.5 million dollars per kilometre. Up to one million dollars of this cost is bureaucracy. That’s simply unacceptable. The end result of this slow and expensive bureaucratic process is fewer median barriers and therefore multiple fatalities, such as the one that occurred yesterday.”

Matthew-Wilson describes many New Zealand roads as being like “a staircase without a handrail – you make the slightest mistake, you’re going to get hurt.”

Seeing the light

Matthew-Wilson also slammed the government for not adopting other simple, cheap measures to improve road safety.

“The government has known for twenty years that daytime running lights can reduce daytime accidents by 25%. So why aren’t these lights fitted to every vehicle?

 Daytime running lights are compulsory in the European Union and are now fitted to many new cars in this country, but can be easily retrofitted to older vehicles.

According to multiple studies on the effectiveness of daytime running lights in improving road safety, the potential savings are:

• 25% of daytime multi-vehicle fatal accidents (11% of all non-pedestrian fatal accidents)

• 28% of daytime fatal pedestrian accidents (12% of all fatal pedestrian accidents)

• 20% of daytime multi-vehicle injury accidents

• 12% of daytime multi-vehicle property accidents

Unlike spotlights and foglights, which often dazzle other drivers, daytime running lights are designed solely to be noticed. Thanks to LED technology, daytime running lights now use less electricity than some car stereos.

Panic responses

Matthew-Wilson hopes the recent spate of serious accidents will spur the government into urgent action, but he’s not optimistic the government will make the right decisions.

“My guess is that the government will simply panic and try again to lower the speed limit, even on safer roads. However, this action will alienate millions of motorists, without actually solving the problem."

"Most speed-related car crashes involve a small group of young, poor males, who don’t wear seatbelts and who are often blotto when they crash. Speed signs and road safety messages are meaningless to this group."

"A speed limit sign will not protect your family from a speeding yobbo. A median barrier will.”