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Public attitudes to road safety

Published: | Category: Research & reports , Statistics & surveys | Audiences: Local & regional government, Road controlling authorities, Road traffic engineers & consultants, Roading contractors

This research report allows the transport sector to understand public feedback and monitor trends. 

Publication details

  • Author:
  • Published: 5 March 2021
  • Version: 1


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has a key role in delivering Road to Zero, New Zealand’s road safety strategy. The strategy has a Vision Zero approach with the goal that no one in New Zealand is killed or seriously injured in road crashes.

The Public attitudes to road safety report is part of our commitment to delivering Road to Zero. The report shows public attitudes to road safety issues and behaviours.

Survey questions were asked to over 3,000 respondents in two streams. The questions focused on specific road safety topics, including:

  • speed
  • car safety
  • driver fatigue, impairment and distraction
  • attitudes to enforcement
  • Road to Zero/Vision Zero.

The report will be published annually to allow the transport sector to understand public feedback and monitor trends.

Key findings

  • Most people surveyed (81%) consider New Zealand’s roads generally safe to travel on.
  • There are high levels of support (80%) for roadside drug testing and higher fines for mobile phone use, while there are medium levels of support for median barriers (69%), car safety features (61%) and 30km/h urban speed limits (58%).
  • 83% of respondents think speed limits on the roads they normally use are safe and appropriate; only 6% consider these speed limits too high.
  • A large group of those surveyed, 44%, think the risk of being caught speeding is small.
  • 33% of respondents with a driving licence have been stopped at alcohol checkpoints while driving in the last 12 months - a significant decrease on recent years when the rate was over 50%.
  • Levels of claimed drug use when driving are low, 7% for prescription drugs and 3% for other drugs (including cannabis or methamphetamine)
  • 52% of people think the risk of being caught not wearing a seat belt is small, and 43% think that the penalties are not very severe if you are caught.
  • 13% of drivers had trouble staying awake at least once in the last year while driving to or from work, and 10% while driving as part of their work.
  • Hands-free phone calling while driving has increased to 51% since 2016, and hand-held phone calling has decreased to 16%.
  • 42% of drivers know the star rating of the car they drive, but these are mostly (35%) drivers of four- and five-star cars.
  • 89% of people surveyed consider our town centres are safe for pedestrians, but only 65% consider they are safe for cyclists.
  • Having been informed that around 350 people are killed each year on our roads, 44% of respondents thought zero deaths would be an acceptable number next year, and 15% thought more than 200 deaths would be acceptable.
  • Awareness of the Vision Zero approach to road safety is currently at 11%, and 24% think it’s likely that zero road deaths can be achieved by the year 2050.

The survey data is also available on the Open Data Portal(external link)

Related information

Download report

Public attitudes to road safety 2021 [PDF, 2.8 MB]