Vision Zero: what’s that?

Government’s announced the new road safety strategy and it’s open for consultation. What is this thing and should we welcome it?


Vision Zero, done right, is the most effective way the world’s found to stop our desire to drive around killing and maiming us so much.

It’s based on a thing called systematic safety, crudely defined as “not expecting there to be a silver bullet but fixing all the things that cause the death and maiming IRL”. Here’s a nifty video:

Stuff‘s Damian George and Marty Sharpe did a nice summary of it here. It includes, of course, many of the usual suspects pushing their own barrows as The Magic Thing The Government Should Focus On Above All Else.

(Side note: enjoy Greg Murphy’s pleased surprise at – having actually talked properly with the Associate Transport Minister – learning that Road To Zero is not “bamboozling the public with garbage” but is actually sensible, and of course includes his barrow, better driver training. Along with less deathly cars, less deathly roads, lower speed limits, more and better enforcement, funding shifts, and many other system components. Happy times for Greg.)

Stuff make well the fundamental point of Vision Zero: Kiwis need to stop seeing death, maiming and fear on our roads and streets as “just the inevitable price of modern life”. That’s industrial-grade, blood- and tear-soaked bullsh*t and we’ve got to shake it off.

We’re on a road to zero

And here is the government’s summary of Road To Zero, Ao-NZ’s new road safety strategy.

It’s pretty amazing to hear – finishing with “Our road safety vision is about making New Zealand, our towns and cities places we love to live in, not just drive through”. That alone feels new.

The last word in the voiceover: “What do you think?” Submissions are open til 14th August.

Your voice will be needed to get us underway

Public submissions will be important.

The AA and other vocal, high-profile groups will no doubt come out with some weird stuff (like how they opposed Auckland Transport’s proposal to have a survivable (30km) speed limit in the central city). Media will no doubt amp up the “cost” and “conflict” aspects of it all. New Zealanders, long practised at “othering” poor driving, will no doubt declare “y’all can take that accelerator pedal when you pry it outta mah cold dead toes!” (Yep, we’re already doing that, way too much thanks.)

It’s worth noting that the NZTA, cited by the AA in the article above as saying “safe and appropriate” speeds are higher than Auckland Transport proposed, was a central part of the previous “Safer Journeys” strategy. This strategy – as Stuff’s Marty Sharpe puts it – “didn’t include a target and had no impact on reducing the road toll over the decade, with the number of deaths and injuries increasing at a much faster rate than can be explained by traffic growth”. The poor old Agency is partly to blame for this, because Safer Journeys was never properly implemented throughout the transport system in NZ. So there’s a lot of old, bad policy to realign in there – much of it dating from the failed Safer Journeys days.

So expect some weird, and expect to hear some people calling out contrary bits of NZTA’s own policy, over the coming few weeks til 14 August when the submissions close.

But we can all confidently know: this is the right direction.

So it’ll be vital for NZ to actually follow through. Several cities’ Vision Zero strategies have fallen apart on implementation, like the eye-poppingly terrible débacle of LA’s Vision Zero implementation. Why? Because politicians pander to other citizens OUTRAGED at being asked to be a bit less deathly when driving.

Cautionary tales indeed – read more here.

We’ll be cooking a submission up ourselves to help you our readers do yours (and borrowing heavily from other smart brains). If you’re writing a submission and would like to share it so, please do!

Meantime, have a read and a watch.


Banner image credit: fatal crash scene SH58 Haywards by Peter Sinke

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