Road toll’s human cost stressed

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The mindset that deaths on the road are inevitable has to change, Gore District Council transport manager Peter Standring says.

No matter how low the road toll was, it was too many, he said.

A meeting of agencies involved in the “Any Number Is Too Many” campaign met in Gore last week.

The results of a survey, which were discussed at the meeting, showed road conditions, weather and speed were the risks that most concerned Gore residents.

But while statistics were informative, the essence of the campaign was not to play the blame game and attribute accidents to one element of society, but instead look at the overall human cost.

“We’re conditioned to actually live with this,” Mr Standring said.

It was vital see the human element behind all the statistics and acknowledge road deaths involved people in the community – not only those who had lost their lives but also grieving family members and friends, he said.

Keeping the roads safe was everyone’s responsibility.

Eliminating deaths on the road is being targeted by a grassroots campaign launched by the NZ Transport Agency in partnership with the Southern Road Safety Influencing Group in October.

The “Any Number Is Too Many” campaign was aimed at encouraging conversations in individual communities, Mr Standring said.

“We need to get away from that word ‘toll’ – toll is an acceptable price to pay. Zero is the only acceptable solution – there shouldn’t be a price to pay,” he said.

The group is made up of regional and local authorities in Southland and Otago and government agency and transport sector representatives.

NZ Transport Agency data presented at the meeting showed in the Gore district from 2013 to 2016, 50% of crashes were caused by loss of control on a bend.

“This is the most common type of cause of crash in Gore,” the report stated.

The next-top causes were losing control on straight roads and crashes involving pedestrians, each of which accounted for 20% of crashes.

Another common crash contributor was alcohol.

Crash rates were equal in dry and wet weather conditions, and 60% of accidents happened between 3pm and 7pm.

Twenty-two percent of crashes were caused by non-licensed drivers and 22% by people on restricted licences, the report stated.

Southern road safety influencing group member Russell Hawkes said the campaign was about stimulating community conversations about the road toll.

The campaign would move on to hosting meetings in various communities to stimulate conversation about the road toll and how to achieve a zero road toll in the future, he said.

While the road toll was calculated in annual terms, there was no time limit on the pain suffered by those who had lost family members or friends in a crash, he said.