Safety on the land transport system and in our workplace is our top priority. We must make our roads safer, and we must ensure the people who work for us go home safe and well every day.

Road safety - making the whole system safer

More people are using New Zealand’s land transport system than ever before. This growth, along with more walking and cycling and new technology, services and operators, is challenging our ability to achieve a safe system.

A total of 2902 people were killed or seriously injured on New Zealand roads in the year to 31 March 2019 compared with 3201 in the previous year. Although that is a 9 percent decrease on last year, it is still 8 percent higher than at the start of the decade when the current 10-year road safety strategy, Safer Journeys, began. Serious injury levels from road crashes have been climbing since 2013 at a faster rate than population growth or the increase in vehicle kilometres travelled.

Deaths and reported serious injuries 2010–2019 (annualised totals)

Deaths and reported serious injuries 2010–2019 (annualised totals)

We take a Safe System approach to road safety:

  • safe roads and roadsides – improving the level of safety built into our roads
  • safe road use – alert users who stick to the road rules and look out for each other
  • safe speeds – speed limits that are right for each type of road
  • safe vehicles – choosing the safest vehicle you can afford.

The Safe System approach recognises that people make mistakes and are vulnerable in a crash. In a safe system, when a mistake happens, people don’t have to pay with their life. We target our resources and interventions to the areas with the greatest potential to save the most lives.

Safety improvements fast-tracked to save 160 deaths and serious injuries annually

This year, we began delivering a safe network programme to fast track delivery of safety improvements to New Zealand’s highest risk state highways and local roads to save 160 deaths and serious injuries each year. On state highways, 16km of median barriers, 98km of side barriers and 194km of rumble strips have been installed. A further 33km of median barriers are under construction.

Speed limits decreased on high-risk highways to save 35 deaths and serious injuries annually

Over the year, we also began implementing the Speed Management Guide on the highest risk routes and intersections. Speed limit changes were implemented on 69km of the highest-risk parts of the state highway out of network 4200km identified for reassessment under the 2018–21 National Land Transport Programme. Further speed limit changes will be made on about 600km of state highway between December 2019 and February 2020 across 14 regions for a predicted reduction of 35 deaths and serious injuries each year.

Promotion and education to change behaviour to improve road safety

We manage and invest in promotion and educations activities that support people to change their behaviour to improve road safety. This year, our communications programme educated consumers about the benefits of safer vehicles. A June 2018 study found that 66 percent of all deaths and serious injuries were in one- and two-star safety rated cars.² This rate increases to 77 percent for people aged 16–24. One- and two-star cars have few or no safety features to help drivers avoid crashes or to lessen the severity of injury to people in the car in a crash.

About 90 people are killed every year on New Zealand roads because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. This year, our new seatbelt campaign targeted men aged 20–40 to show them why a seatbelt is worth wearing. After only two weeks of being live, the campaign’s social media posts were shared over 243,000 times with a potential reach of 26 million people.

²Profiling injury risk and burden in the New Zealand light vehicle fleet: where can safety gains be obtained? Monash University, June 2018.

Working in partnership with New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Transport

Last year, we moved to collective responsibility with the Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Police to deliver the Road Safety Partnership Programme to more effectively reduce harm on our roads.

On 1 July 2018, New Zealand Police introduced a target to reduce road deaths by 5 percent every year. Police prioritised enforcement efforts for restraint use (that is, seat belts and child seats), impaired driving, distracted driving and speeding in high-risk routes throughout the country.

Over the year, we worked closely with the Ministry of Transport to develop the new 10-year national road safety strategy, Road to Zero, due to be published in October 2019.³ An immediate action from the strategy is to increase the priority of road policing. A framework for measuring the success of the Road Safety Partnership Programme in delivering Road to Zero will be in place from 2019/20.

³Road to zero: consultation on the 2020–2030 Road Safety Strategy is available from the Ministry of Transport website(external link)

Keeping our people and contractors safe

We are putting in place a health and safety management system to keep our people and contractors working on the road safe and healthy. This system follows international best practice.

Four workers in the Bay of Plenty and Wellington died this year while doing road maintenance. We worked with the construction contractors to understand what caused the incidents and then implemented system-wide improvements to make the working environment safer for maintenance and construction workers.

Our recordable injury rate (which is the number of injuries and fatalities per million hours worked) on construction projects and network maintenance operations reduced from 8.0 to 5.3 over the year in line with the longer-term decreasing trend.

Strengthening our regulatory functions

Safety numbersRegulations underpin safety and contribute to people and goods moving safely on New Zealand’s road and rail networks. As a result of systematic and major issues identified with the Transport Agency’s regulatory function in late 2018, much of the rest of 2018/19 was dedicated to stabilising this function and ensuring regulations were being enforced.

We moved quickly to establish a programme to manage compliance, quality and timeliness issues relating to the backlog of 850 cases of non-compliance with vehicle testing regulations. The programme delivered on its two main aims: to establish interim structures, policies, processes and systems to facilitate the review work and to create a foundation for developing our future regulatory compliance and enforcement function.

As part of this work, we:

  • resolved 1271 cases of non-compliance (including taking 620 enforcement actions against non-compliant regulated parties)
  • responded to incorrectly certified vehicles so safe vehicles are using the land transport system
  • suspended over 30 vehicle inspectors and inspecting organisations and gave 55,000 vehicle owners a voucher for a free re-inspection
  • suspended three vehicle repair certifiers and a heavy vehicle certifier, which resulted in the re-inspection of about 1200 heavy vehicles.

With our regulatory functions stabilised, we then shifted focus to developing our regulatory function for the future. In May 2019, the Transport Agency Board endorsed a high-level roadmap to get us to our regulatory future state, and we began detailed planning and foundational work. By the end of June 2019, we had completed the first stage to increase our regulatory capacity. The plan for 2019/20 is to make the necessary further improvements in people, processes, policies and platforms.

New performance measures have been developed for 2019/20 that will improve monitoring of compliance.

Rail safety – fully establishing the regulatory function

Establishing the rail safety regulatory function was another focus for the year. We built our regulatory rail capability and capacity and enhanced our systems and processes to incorporate rail safety enforcement. Our first prosecution under the Railways Act 2005 was of an organisation that failed to follow its safety case and safety systems, failed to train its staff appropriately and failed to notify us of a serious incident.

Feature story

Belt up, live on poster

Belt up. Live on.

Every year, over 90 people died because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Research shows that many men aged between 20 and 40, especially those from provincial areas, think seatbelts are an optional accessory that should be worn only by children or older people.

We wanted to turn wearing a seatbelt from a perceived weakness to a sign of strength by celebrating real crash survivors who survived because they made a choice to buckle up.

On 20 February 2019, the campaign was launched by crash survivors over their own social media channels and also through the link) website.

We made the campaign realistic and effective by working with a special effects make-up team and an emergency medicine specialist to recreate the injuries the men suffered. As a reference, we used photos each man provided of their injuries taken days after their crash.

The survivors came up with the colloquialism ‘belt up’ and we used this sentiment for the key campaign message ‘Belt up. Live on’.

By working together with local councils, we carefully chose the locations of the bars and pubs where we could place the bespoke billboards (ranging in height from 2 to 3.5 metres).

These billboards were placed in bar carparks throughout high risk, provincial areas including the hometowns and communities where each survivor lives.

After only two weeks of being live, the campaign’s social media posts were shared over 243,000 times with a potential reach of 26 million people.