Dead End Road by Susan Grimsdell

‘Road to zero’ campaign

Even the name is ridiculous.  There will never ever be zero deaths on the roads.  Considering that a PR company here in NZ was paid big dollars to come up with that meaningless and unreal slogan, it doesn’t bode well for what those doing the spending will choose to throw money at next.  Sure enough, just as stupidly, what they’re spending hugely on is urging us to stop being normal human beings, and for all of us to be perfect.  Zero, right?  No margin of error. 

As normal people, we get distracted, we do stupid things, we disobey the regulations, we prioritise – if someone we’re worried about phones us on the mobile as we tootle along at 100kph, we will answer it.  If we’re going a short distance to an important function and we have our new jacket on that we don’t want to get creased, we won’t bother with the seatbelt.  If we’ve only had one glass of wine and we’re not going far, we will drive home.  We’ll even doze off at the wheel.

Let’s hear it for median barriers

People in charge of planning towards zero road deaths are highly paid, and probably have two or three university qualifications.  There’s only one problem – they don’t do as well as any 10-year-old when deciding how to reduce road deaths.  

Other people do research to find out what actually works to stop people getting killed.  They have found that we could reduce the road toll by 90% by doing nothing more than putting in roundabouts, median barriers and roadside fencing.  Rocket science?  Hardly.  Despite promising to roll out 198km of median barriers by mid-2021, in fact between December 2018 and July 2021 they installed a total of 49 km.  The money was there, it just didn’t get spent.  And people died. 

 Successive NZ governments are like anti-vaxxers – they prefer to go with what they “believe” rather than to accept the science.  Instead of fast-tracking the installation of median barriers, their preferred approach is to punish motorists.  The latest is to reduce speed. The economic impact of that is enormous – changing all the road signs alone would cost a fortune, and the effect of everyone taking longer to reach their destination is incalculable, let alone the increase in road rage.  And guess what – road deaths will not decrease.  In recent years despite enormous expenditure on PR ads urging us to slow down, wear seat belts, don’t drink and drive, the road toll has gone up.   Up.

If it weren’t such a tragedy it would even be funny.

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