NZ highways get safer

Waikato's rural highways are getting safer with crash rates declining on the region's roading network.

New data from NZ Transport Agency show the number of fatal and serious injury crashes on Waikato and Bay of Plenty state highways has decreased from 1156 crashes in 2002-2006 to 1042 in 2007-2011.

Using the KiwiRAP road assessment programme, state highways are given a risk-rating from low to high.

NZTA Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional director Harry Wilson said the extent of state highways rated as high or medium-high risk had reduced from 787km to 634km.

The Waikato and Bay of Plenty's combined rural state highway network stretches approximately 2,442km.

''This reflects our targeted approach to making safety improvements where we can save the most lives and prevent the most serious injuries,'' Mr Wilson said.

He said KiwiRAP was an internationally recognised road assessment programme that identifies state highways where crash rates are highest so safety improvements can be better targeted.

''KiwiRAP is a powerful too for increasing public awareness and recognition that not all roads are the same. This can help drivers and riders to know where they need to take more care in some areas and to remember to always drive to the conditions.''

Mr Wilson said although good progress had been made in improving the region's high risk roads, more work was needed.

He expected the completion of further sections of the Waikato Expressway would bring  safety gains.