Out with “Road Safety”, in with “Transport Health”

The reported road toll is only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s rethink how transport affects personal and community health.

The more we drive, the more we crash. And it’s not one for one, there is a 2.5% increase in crashes for every 1% increase in driving. It’s simple, the best way to make our roads safer is to have fewer cars on them. Every trip taken by public or active transport reduces everyone’s chance of dying while travelling.

The health of our tamariki

One of the other health impacts of a high proportion of trips taken by car is the impact of low activity on our tamariki. Childhood obesity has been in the spotlight these last few years, and factors like a reduction in the number of tamariki walking and wheeling to school are certainly not helping. Kids getting themselves to school has numerous benefits for their health, wellbeing, and development. It is also the time where they will develop habits. If they are driven to school every day, then driving will be the natural option for them once they are old enough to. Yet again, increasing the road toll. If they’re supported to ride to school with safe infrastructure, then by the time they turn 16, they won’t have a need for a driver’s licence, because they can already get themselves where they need to go without the hassle of having to arrange with their parent(s)/guardian(s) to borrow the car.

Curbing emissions

Thick smog with pedestrians walking down the street
Air pollution isn’t usually thought about in Aotearoa, because it doesn’t look like this. Doesn’t stop it killing people every year though

Every car trip also adds more emissions into the air, greenhouse gases contributing to the global disease disaster of climate change. In Tāmaki-makaurau, 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from private cars. Other pollutants released by vehicles exacerbate lung and heart conditions. In Aotearoa it is estimated that there are 1,277 premature deaths every year from air pollution, and another 676 hospitalisations. Why aren’t these in our road toll? 

This post was inspired by “The Shared Path” an excellent report about building back better post-pandemic.

Image Credits:

Tama on bike: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

Air pollution: vtpoly

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