What New Zealanders think about road safety


For the third consecutive year, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency has published the findings of a comprehensive survey into New Zealanders’ attitudes toward road safety issues and behaviours, and how these are trending over time.

The Public Attitudes to Road Safety - 2022 Report, prepared with Kantar Public, details the results of responses provided by more than 3,300 New Zealanders to a broad range of questions focussed on specific road safety topics, including attitudes to enforcement, speed, vehicle safety, impaired driving, distraction, driver fatigue and personal safety.

The survey is part of the work Waka Kotahi is doing to deliver the Government’s Road Safety Strategy, Road to Zero, which has a vision of a New Zealand where no-one is killed or seriously injured on our roads.

It sets a target of reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads by 40% (compared to 2018 levels) by 2030. Reaching that target would mean reducing annual road deaths to 227 and serious injuries to 1,680 by 2030. Last year 378 people were killed and more than 2,500 were seriously injured on New Zealand roads.

The latest public attitudes survey showed that New Zealanders remain confident in the safety of the country’s roads, with 71 % of respondents deeming them “fairly safe.” The most mentioned aspects regarding the safety of our roads included the behaviour of other drivers, road surface/quality, road design and maintenance, speeding and weather – the latter sentiment possibly influenced by a very wet winter. The survey was carried out before this summer’s cyclone events.

There was continued public support for existing levels of police enforcement of road safety behaviour, and support for the current amount of publicity and advertising used to promote safe driving.

Other key findings included:

  • Many New Zealanders (48%) think the risk of being caught speeding by Police is small.  In response Police say last year they issued 1.2 million notices for speed infringements, including increased enforcement for those speeding up to 10km over the limit, highlighting the importance being placed on ensuring road users keep within posted speed limits on our roads
  • Only 51 % believe safety cameras help reduce road deaths, though the latest Road to Zero Audience Insights Monitor Research for February 2023 shows that 62% agree or strongly agree that cameras do help in reducing the number of people exceeding the speed limit.
  • New Zealanders think both open road speed limits and those in urban areas are about right, though more than 65 % support lower speed limits (40 km/h) around schools in urban areas.

Consistent with previous years, almost half of those surveyed about their attitudes to road safety (46%) say that any road deaths from road crashes is unacceptable, while 13% believed that 200 deaths or fewer was acceptable.

Waka Kotahi Senior Manager, Road Safety, Fabian Marsh says the latter statistic offered an opportunity to collectively change New Zealand’s perception about acceptable thresholds for road deaths.

“Everyone should be able to get where they’re going safely, whether they’re walking, cycling, driving, riding motorcycles or using public transport. The safe transport system we are creating is one that recognises humans make mistakes and is designed so that these mistakes do not need to cost us our lives. That’s why we use a mix of solutions that all combine to keep people safe, including strengthening areas like safe speeds, road and street design, vehicle safety and driver behaviour.”

Bryan Sherritt, Director Road to Zero at Te Manatū Waka, Ministry of Transport, says that visible enforcement is an area of focus in the effort to reduce deaths and serious injuries.

“One thing that has changed is our approach to road policing. New Zealand police have been using their operation ‘Open Road’ focusing on the open road network where around three quarters of our deaths and serious injuries occur every year. Having that sort of presence out on the road network helps as a general deterrent so that motorists do see police on the road network and do things that are safer; and that, combined with a reasonably strong advertising and marketing campaign amplifies that effect as well.”

Public promotions such as the ‘Through My Eyes: Slow down’(external link) speed campaign on broadcast and social media that was launched in January, continue to attract support from more than half the population with 36 % of respondents believing the amount should be increased.

Other things are happening as well, Mr Sherritt says.

“We’re working hard with Waka Kotahi and local government to roll out things like median barriers, safe and appropriate speed limits, rumble strips on the side of the road and raised platforms, so all of those elements across the network combined with road policing work in a system effect to drive down deaths and serious injuries. That’s what the plan is, that’s what Road to Zero is based on.”