Road safety is a major challenge for players in all sectors of the transport industry from road construction engineers to the government and road users. Each sector has a number of safety procedures to adhere to which can save countless lives if followed accurately. Unfortunately, negligence of any single player in the road transport industry can result in fatalities even if everyone else strictly follows the rules. Road use is a communal matter and any decision you make on the road affects other drivers and pedestrians around you.
While a large number of road accidents and incidents are caused by road user negligence, influence of drugs and alcohol, recklessness and individual challenges such as poor eyesight or illness, some cases are caused by the condition of the roads. Road construction, signs and safety features have a big bearing on road accidents and fatalities. It is the duty of the government and transport authorities to ensure that the roads are well-made and safe for all users from heavy-duty trucks to pedestrians. Maintenance and repair of potholes, installation of road signs, warnings about sharp turns and repainting off-road markings among other things are small initiatives that the government can take on to reduce the number of accidents on our roads.
Road Safety in New Zealand
In New Zealand, the Ministry of Transport has reported an average of 313 annual road deaths in the past six years with a high of 378 deaths recorded in 2017. Although this is a great improvement from the road fatalities reported in the late eighties where up to 795 deaths could be reported in a year, it is still not acceptable. While many countries such as Norway, Luxemburg and Slovenia exhibited a marked reduction in road fatalities of above 20% between 2016 and 2017, New Zealand reported a 16% increase in the same interval. In fact, the death toll in NZ due to road accidents has been rising annually since 2013.
In response to the rising road death statistics, the Ministry of Transport of New Zealand began taking measures to improve the road safety towards the end of 2017. The New Zealand Transport Authority began by launching a safety campaign dubbed ‘We want you here for Christmas’ in a bid to curb recklessness during the holiday period. In addition, the police superintendent introduced an alcohol checkpoint to limit one of the leading causes of road fatalities, drunk-driving.
On a broader scope, the government began looking into methods of improving awareness and road safety education across the country. While these social measures were underway, the government also initiated activities to acquire funds for more practical solutions such as improving the conditions of the roads and dangerous intersections.
State Highway 3 Safety Upgrades
The SH3 is one of New Zealand’s eight major State Highways and runs for 500 km connecting the SH1 and SH2 at Hamilton and Woodville respectively. The highway’s primary destinations include Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, New Plymouth, Whanganui and Palmerston North among others. The SH3 is one of the country’s busiest roads as it connects the New Plymouth Airport to the seaport and is the road of choice for transporters ferrying truck spare parts shipped in from European and Asian truck manufacturers to their truck parts distributors in the country.
This highway has been the location of some of the most fatal road accidents this year killing up to 13 people at a time. The road has been selected for the implementation of a 29 million dollar safety improvement project. Starting in February, the highway upgrades will run for three years beginning with urgent safety improvements to the stretch between Raleigh Street and Waiongana Stream and the section from Waitara to Bell Block. Special attention will be given towards extending the right turn pocket into Corbett Road and building a new right turn pocket into Wills Road. This will be followed by widening the SH3 between Wills/Corbett and Mahoetahi Road in order to incorporate wide shoulders with wire rope safety barriers.
The four main causes of road fatalities in New Zealand and most parts of the world are impairment, distractions, speed and not wearing seatbelts. Road safety upgrades are designed to reduce the occurrence and limit outcomes of accidents. Installation of safety barriers at sharp curves and bridges or rumble strips as you approach intersections can spark the driver’s attention if he was previously distracted.
Not all traffic incidents result in the loss of life but all cause damage to the vehicles involved and it is often difficult and costly to find the right vehicle or truck spares you need, leading to lengthy downtime for your business. It is advisable to consider giving your drivers a fresh safety training course and upgrading the safety options in your fleet of trucks as soon as you can.