“We all make mistakes from time to time. We need to stop simple mistakes turning into tragedies.”

We want to live in a New Zealand where people arrive at their destinations alive – every time; where people feel safe to choose alternative modes of travel for themselves and their kids, including by bike or foot; and where our communities can enjoy the places we live as spaces to be, not just to travel through.

Vision Zero

Vision Zero is a world-leading approach to road safety that says:

  • no loss of life on the roads is acceptable
  • road deaths and serious injuries are preventable
  • people make mistakes and are vulnerable – we need to stop simple mistakes turning to tragedies
  • safety should be a critical decision-making priority in our transport decisions
  • we need to focus on shared responsibility between road users, and the people who design and operate our roads.

The Safe System

Vision Zero is founded on the safe system approach that says that while we all have a responsibility to make good choices, people make mistakes so we need to build a more forgiving road system that protects people from death and serious injury when they crash.

Instead of focussing on a single safety intervention, such as improving driver behaviour, the safe system looks at all elements of road safety working together.

Under a safe system, we should work to:

  • improve the safety of our roads, for example with median barriers, improved road sides, safer intersections and separated cycle lanes and foot paths
  • strive for travel speeds to be safe and appropriate for the function and use of the road so that road users can survive the crashes that happen
  • improve the safety of our vehicles, for example with electronic stability control, front and side curtain airbags, and collision avoidance systems
  • support road users who are competent, alert and unimpaired; they comply with road rules, take steps to improve road safety and expect safety improvements.

A new conversation about road safety

  • Everyone makes mistakes, we need to stop these mistakes turning into tragedies.
  • We all need to make good choices and follow the rules. No one expects to crash, but anyone can make a mistake.
  • Traditional approaches to road safety have focussed on improving driver behaviour. This is really important, but we now know it won’t fix the problem entirely.
  • Our roads are challenging and the consequences of small errors can be fatal. We need to make our roads safer.
  • We need to improve the safety of our vehicles, the road users, our roads and our speeds, so that simple mistakes don’t turn into tragedies. We need a safe road system.
  • Countries overseas have made big improvements in road safety through this approach. We know what we need to do.

This table proposes some ways we might reframe the conversation:

From this…

To this

Road deaths are inevitable

Road deaths are preventable

Road crashes are caused by bad driving

People make mistakes from time to time, we need to stop simple mistakes turning into tragedies

Work to prevent all crashes

Prevent deaths and serious injuries from crashes

Cars and roads

Cars, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, mobility scooters, e-scooters; roads, footpaths, cycle ways etc.

Isolated road safety interventions

A Safe System combines all aspects of road safety working together to save lives

Drivers need to take more responsibility

Road safety is a shared responsibility between road users, designers and managers

Reactive to serious crashes

Proactive, evidence-based  approach to building a safe road system

Some additional road safety points:

  • Across New Zealand, on average one person is killed every day and another is injured every hour.
  • Half the people killed and harmed on our roads did not contribute to the crash – they’re passengers, pedestrians, on bicycles, or drivers who have been hit by others.
  • International data shows that about 30% of serious crashes are caused by risk-taking and deliberate violations, and the rest are caused by simple errors of judgement.
  • New Zealand’s roads are uniquely challenging – we live in a narrow, hilly country and long stretches of our highway networks lack median barriers or other safety infrastructure that are international best practice for 100kph speed limits.
  • The safety of your car, and the car you buy your teenagers, matters: you’re 90% more likely to die in a 1 star car than a 5 star car.
  • The posted speed limit isn’t a target and it isn’t necessarily the safe speed for the road. 87% of New Zealand roads do not have a safe and appropriate speed limit.
  • In the event of a crash, regardless of its cause, the speed you are driving is the most important influence on whether you live or die, or how badly you are injured. For example, research shows that if you have a head on collision at 100km/h you are more likely to die than survive.
  • Road safety goes beyond preventing deaths, to improving lives and lifestyles too. It ensures people feel safe to ride their bikes and let their children walk to school. It creates road networks that connect people rather than dividing them. It is part of making New Zealand, our towns and our cities places we want to be.

Regional data

Regional dashboard: The Ministry of Transport’s sub-regional dashboard(external link) captures the annual crash data for deaths and serious injuries across the country going back 27 years in an interactive format.

Road safety factsheets: We also have new road safety factsheets(external link) reporting on different crash types (cycling, fatigue, young drivers etc.)