Wikinews exclusive: 'speed not behind New Zealand's road toll'

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rachael Ford, co-ordinator for New Zealand's Candor Trust reveals in a Wikinews exclusive what Candor asserts is the hidden cause of deaths on New Zealand's roads.

Candor Trust is an organisation based in New Zealand that helps educate New Zealanders about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs.

Candor Trust says that the message that "Speed kills" is the "number one road safety threat".

In 2000, the number of road accidents causing injuries was 7,447. Last year, this rose to 10,738 - the highest since 1995. Statistics provided by the Ministry of Transport show that in the same period, the number of hospitalisations too rose by about a quarter (25%), to 7,427.

Saying that the general level of safety on New Zealand's roads has "gone down the gurgler", According to the Trust, the "unjustified emphasis" on speed, which it says is far from the greatest factor in fatalities, only serves to distract from bigger issues."

Candor Trust urges a rethinking of the "Speed kills" message, pointing out that it does not predict that record numbers of hospitalisations accompanying the record numbers of speeding tickets issued.

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ) both say that a one percent decrease in the mean speed will cut the death toll by four percent and the injury rate by two percent.

Dr. Patrick Meffen has told transport officials from the Ministry of Transport that factors other than the drop in average speeds are responsible for the drop in the death toll.

Provisional figure for 2006 show a four percent decrease of the mean speed from 101 km/h to 97 km/h coinciding with an increase of people being seriously injured. The number went up by 330, a 15% increase from the 2000 figure of 2,243.

Candor Trust says that it is incredible that other agencies, including LTNZ, are continuing to spread the message that speed kills, even when an experiment to show what happened when users took party pills and then drove was stopped when no fatalities occurred, just concern over adverse effects.

Candor Trust said: "The survival of road users depends on the goodwill of planners who need to come clean and admit the 'reduced harm correlates to reduced average speeds' hypothesis is disproven in the present NZ context."

Ms Ford said: "It is not OK that the damning Breen report [a review of road safety to 2010 strategy] expressed concerns [that] our road safety policy is not sufficiently evidence based, and yet we carry on doing as we've always done." She said that because of this, the road victim disability services are overloaded and unable to meet the needs of the victims.

The speed theory is based on a formula called 'Ashtons formula'. Ashtons formula is based on demonstrated association, which is said to need the weakest scientific evidence, but Candor Trust says that it does not account for variables such as the vehicle standards.

Dr. Meffen told the LTNZ that it is not true if a crash occurred at 95 km/h and another at 105 km/h, the slower one would be more survivable. He said that the media releases are misleading people, making them believe in a false sense of security. "An important spin off from the misuse of these statistics has been the concept promoted by media of survivable accidents at or near open road speeds. In reality the chances of surviving around the open speed limit are low and purely random."

Candor Trust said: "Speed control must stop dominating policy - over limit speed is only present at 18% of fatal crashes. Safety has nothing to do with legality, and putting all our eggs in the speed basket as it's easily 'enforceable' has been a mistake." Over half of all fatal crashes the speed is under 60km/h, and fatal side-on crashes occur at speeds usually below 40 km/h.

In 2005 and partly 2006, $2,385,000 NZD was spent on advertising to prevent speeding, the majority of the advertising budget. Speeding teenagers, who are of the most concern, do not make up the bulk of the toll.

Candor Trust said the most important issue that could end up saving lives is the use of 1990-dated imports in cars that are being used by the under 25-year-olds on New Zealand roads, or as Candor Trust described the roads, "State Goat Tracks."

Candor Trust calls for an immediate review and reconstruction of how the police deals with crashes, and want information on inattention and drug intoxication to be collected following a crash. A police source told Candor Trust that there are often times when crash investigators argue with the police when the police try to tick the speed box, because they are "overly keen". Candor Trust want a better and more effective road safety policy, especially when it comes to speed.

Also in the latter half of this month, January, 19 fatal crashes occurred and 16 of those were the result of a centreline cross, which usually occur because a driver is fatigued or otherwise impaired, and they move the steering wheel; or "run off road events." Ministry of Transport statistics shows that a head-on collision in which one of the cars is travelling 80 km/h or more will most likely result in a fatality. Research conducted in America also showed that mobile phones are not a major cause of deaths when compared to other causes. In the 3 seconds before a crash, 80% of drivers are inattentive and local studies implicate fatigue or drug abuse as the main risk factors for that.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.