Talks seek direction on safer roads

Engineers, contractors and the police have met to thrash out ways of cutting the number of deaths and injuries on Southland's roads.

"People should not die or suffer serious injury as a result of making a minor error," Environment Southland transport authority policy analyst Russell Hawkes said at a workshop held at Environment Southland last week.

Jointly organised by the Invercargill, Gore and Southland District councils, Environment Southland and the New Zealand Transport Agency, the workshop introduced the safe system approach to road design and use as part of the Government's Safer Journeys road safety strategy.

It aimed to create a forgiving road system.

This would be based on the assumptions that people made mistakes and were physically vulnerable by focusing on the four elements of the system; vehicles, roads and roadsides, speed and road users.

It also identified the need for designers and users to share responsiblity for creating a roading system where crashes did not cause death or serious injury.

Invercargill City Council roading manager Russell Pearson said the workshop would train people to implement the safe system and make it better.

However, he said it was no quick remedy.

He said there were some opportunities for Southland's councils to identify common ways where they could work together.

"We may well want to go and rate our local roads in a consistent manner to better understand the issues," Mr Pearson said.

Mr Hawkes said the safe system was a mindset shift.

It would go from blaming the driver to identifying the system failure and deciding how things could be done differently to make the consequences of a crash less severe.

"Rather than reacting to crashes [we're] trying to remove the potential for them in the first place."

He did not believe extra funding would be needed because many of the improvements were low cost and just needed to be identified.

"Yes, there's big projects out there.

"But we don't have major blackspot areas where we've got multitudes of crashes so therefore we're trying to deal with the more random events that happen on the local roads.

"So it's a bigger picture," Mr Hawkes said.

The Southland Times