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New risk-ratings show safety improvements on State Highways

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The new KiwiRAP highway risk-ratings announced today show safety has improved significantly on several Auckland and Northland State Highways over the past five years.

The NZTA’s Auckland and Northland Regional Director, Stephen Town, says overall the results are encouraging. 

“KiwiRAP data shows that the combined length of “high risk” and “medium-high risk” state highways (in terms of total fatal and serious injury crashes) in Auckland and Northland has reduced by 18% from 475 to 388 kilometres as a result of the NZTA’s approach to making safety improvements where we can save the most lives and prevent the most serious injuries,” Mr Town says.

The new risk-ratings compare 2007/11 crash rates with those from the previous five years (2002 to 2006). 

The programme has measured the crash risk on approximately 1200 kilometres of state highways in Northland and Auckland. It focuses mainly on rural highways where the speed limit is higher and the risk of a fatal and serious injury greater, but does also include sections of Auckland city’s motorway network.

Mr Town says the opening of the Northern Gateway Toll Road has contributed to a significant improvement in safety on the section of State Highway 1 from Albany on Auckland’s North Shore to the town of Warkworth. 

The toll road replaces a hilly nine kilometre-long section of SH1 with many tight curves.  Since it opened in January 2009, it has contributed to fatal and serious crashes between Albany and Warkworth reducing from 38 in 2002-2006 to 20 in 2007-2011.

“The old highway was known for having very poor crash statistics, but is now by-passed by a toll road with a 4 star KiwiRAP rating that is wide and straight and a lot safer for drivers by comparison,” says Mr Town.    

Other NZTA improvements - signage upgrades, an extension of roadside barriers, improved lighting, and sealed shoulder widening – have been complemented by targeted Police campaigns against speeding and drinking drivers.

“It’s a great example of agencies working together to try to keep people as safe as possible on our highways.”      

KiwiRAP is an internationally recognised road assessment programme that identifies state highways where crash risks are highest, so that safety improvements can be better targeted. KiwiRAP is supported by the NZTA, the New Zealand Automobile Association (AA), the Ministry of Transport, the Police and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

KiwiRAP data is used to determine whether the level of Collective Risk and Personal Risk has improved in the past five years. 

Collective risk-ratings are based on the total number of fatal and serious injury crashes over a section of highway known as crash-density. Personal risk-ratings are based on the number of fatal and serious injury crashes per kilometre driven over the same section of road, measuring the relative risk to an individual driver being involved in a crash.  The risk bands are categorised as High, Medium/High, Medium, Low/Medium and Low risk.  Personal risk is often highest on lower volume, lower standard, and mountainous highways. In many cases infrastructure improvements would not be cost effective and improving safety through the other safe system pillars such as safer speeds, safer vehicles and safer road use may be more effective.

Mr Town says KiwiRAP is a powerful tool for increasing public awareness that not all highways are the same.

“Drivers and riders who are aware of the higher risk highways can then adjust their driving to take extra care. Similarly, we can identify safety shortcomings that can then be addressed with practical road safety measures.

Mr Town says that while good progress had been made in improving our higher risk highways, there is still more work to do. Safety improvement projects are already underway in both Auckland and Northland and more are programmed for the next three years that will see enhanced safety benefits when the next KwiRAP risk ratings are released in 2017.

“Safer Journeys has set us a clear vision of creating a road system increasingly free of serious injuries and deaths by 2020.  Improving the safety of roads and roadsides is a key focus for Safer Journeys, and the data from KiwiRAP will continue to help us make targeted safety improvements in areas where we will make the most impact in minimising collective and personal risk.”

For more information see www.kiwirap.org.nz(external link)

Ewart Barnsley
Auckland/Northland Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency
T +6499288720
M    64272137616
Ewart.barnsley@nzta.govt.nz

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