New Zealand roads ‘an accident waiting to happen’, says campaigner

Many fatalities could be prevented through simple changes in road design, says the car review website

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

“Many of New Zealand's roads are like a staircase without a handrail: you make a mistake, you're going to get hurt. Upgrading these deadly roads is the single most important step in lowering the road toll.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of the Auckland harbour bridge, which used to suffer one serious accident a week.

“Multiple attempts were made to improve the standard of driving on the harbour bridge, and they all failed. Eventually the authorities built a concrete barrier between the opposing lanes of traffic, and the serious accidents virtually stopped overnight. There wasn’t one less idiot on the road, but the road had been changed in a way that prevented simple mistakes becoming fatalities.”

“Cars colliding head-on or running off the road are an everyday occurrence, and yet they’re often preventable at very low costs compared to the price of a new road.”

 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 is skeptical about the repeated attempts at asking people to drive safely.

“Multiple studies have demonstrated that asking people to drive safely is largely a waste of time, because the worst drivers tend to believe they’re the best drivers.”

“I wish to God that people would start driving responsibly, but wishes don’t save lives. What does save lives are cars and roads that protect innocent people from the mistakes of others.”

“As the Auckland Harbour Bridge example shows, simple changes in technology can prevent silly mistakes turning into fatalities.”

“The road toll may seem high, but it’s less than half of what it was in 1987, even though there are many more cars on the road. Technology has already halved the road toll, and with simple changes to the way our roads work, we could quickly halve it again.”