Median barriers save far more lives than speed cameras


Seven members of the same family died in this head-on collision with a truck near Picton. They were not speeding. A simple median barrier would have prevented this tragedy.

Record numbers of speed camera tickets have failed to significantly lower the annual road toll, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says the New Zealand government is using speed as an excuse for the high annual road toll, even though speed is not the primary problem.

"Despite what the police claim, speed is the primary cause of just 15% of fatal crashes, according to Ministry of Transport research.”

“Another inconvenient truth is that the police are targeting the wrong drivers. As a matter of scientific fact, few ordinary motorists cause speed-related fatalities. Instead, almost all speed-related fatalities are caused by a small group of yobbos and reckless motorcyclists, and they’re often blotto when they crash. Yobbos and blotto drivers don’t read speed signs, rarely think of consequences and are effectively immune to road safety messages.”

Matthew-Wilson says technology is a far better cure for road deaths.

“Two of the worst accidents of 2022 were caused by a simple lack of a median barrier.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of the seven people killed in June after a van crashed into a truck on State Highway 1 south of Picton.

“This family were not speeding. They could have been travelling at half the speed and they would still have been annihilated.”

In a separate accident in November, three members of the same family were killed in a head-on collision with a truck.

“No one has suggested this family were speeding. They simply made a simple mistake that cost them their lives.”

“Perhaps the police could explain how ticketing ordinary motorists going 1km over the speed limit or reducing the speed limit on those roads would have prevented either of these crashes? What would have prevented both these crashes is a median barrier.”

Waka Kotahi has widely acknowledged the effectiveness of median barriers. Yet, in 2021, Waka Kotahi installed just 50km of this lifesaving technology.

Matthew-Wilson is disgusted with the government’s attitude to fixing unsafe highways, especially the excuse that the country can’t afford the cost of median barriers.. 

“The money is there to fix our roads; it’s just not being collected. Most of the damage to our roads is done by trucks, yet the trucking industry pays less than a quarter of the cost of building and maintaining roads. It’s a scam.”

Matthew-Wilson has some good news:

“While any road deaths are a tragedy, the overall road toll has been trending downwards since the 1980s. Despite the overall downward trend, the annual highs and lows of the road toll tend to follow the economy. “

“In 1973 the New Zealand population was around three million, but the road toll was 843. In 2021, the population was around five million but the road toll was 319.” 

“Drivers have not improved. The big improvements have been in the cars, roads and the medical system.”

“Right now, there’s a lot of building going on. That means lots of builder’s labourers with money to spend on booze, drugs and fast cars. It means lots of trucks carrying heavy freight down highways. The housing boom has also paid for middle-aged men to buy large motorbikes. This group are killing themselves at a typical rate of about one a week. “

“As the economy dips into recession, the annual road toll will almost certainly dip with it. In the meantime, we have a national roading system that belongs in the Third World. We also have a trail of broken promises from the government, and a trail of disproved theories from the police.”