That’s the message from Dr Li Hsee, chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ (RACS) Aotearoa New Zealand (AoNZ) Trauma Subcommittee. He says the end of COVID-19 restrictions could bring a new threat to public health.
“We’re anticipating a resurgence in tourists this summer, both domestic and from overseas, and that brings with it a risk of increased road crashes resulting in potential death or severe injuries.
“New Zealand roads can be tricky. They’re often windy, with no median barriers, and the landscape they traverse can be distractingly beautiful. Tourists can be driving roads they’re not familiar with and overseas visitors may not know the road code.”
RACS supports the Waka Kotahi, New Zealand Transport Agency, Road to Zero campaign, which aims to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 40% between 2018 and 2030, with an ultimate vision of getting numbers down to zero. Measures include reducing speed limits on some roads, lifting minimum safety standards for vehicles and developing a regulatory framework for commercial transport.
Despite the targets, Dr Hsee acknowledges the past year has in fact seen an upswing in road toll figures.
“2022 is shaping up to be the worst in terms of road deaths in more than a decade”, he says.
There have been 356 road deaths this year to 15 December; on a par with 2018 which, along with 2017, was the worst year since 2009. Eleven people have lost their lives on the roads this month already and the peak holiday period doesn’t begin until 4pm on 23 December.
This year’s statistics are against a backdrop of an already high road fatality rate compared to other countries. Road fatalities per capita are more than 50% higher in AoNZ compared to Australia, according to 2017 figures, at 7.9 per 100,000 people.
“Every road death has a huge impact on families and communities”, says Dr Hsee.
“Likewise serious injuries have severe consequences which can last a lifetime. We need to do better and drivers, the ball is in our court.”
Dr Hsee says there are three simple rules to keep front of mind whenever you get behind the wheel.
1. Don’t drive if you’re tired. Take a break or switch places with another driver.
2. Stick to the speed limit and drive to the conditions.
3. Don’t get distracted, either by your mobile phone or by intoxicants that impair your judgement and concentration.
Dr Hsee also fears a rise in injuries and deaths from water sports this year and urges care on the country’s beaches, as well as in lakes and pools.
• On average one person is killed every day on AoNZ roads and another seven are seriously injured (Waka Kotaki, 2019).
• Over 50% of major trauma injuries in our hospitals are from road crashes (Major Trauma Network, 2018).
• Men account for 71% of road deaths (Waka Kotahi, 2018-2022).
• Almost two-thirds of road deaths occur in 100km/h speed zones or above (Waka Kotahi, 2018-2022).
Media enquiries: Diana Blake, Communications Specialist (AoNZ) Contact: (+64) 210 247 8454