The Vision Zero approach to safety The Vision Zero approach to safety

No one should expect to be injured or killed while travelling around our great city.

How is Auckland tracking against its Vision Zero goal.
How is Auckland tracking against its Vision Zero goal.
When we embark on a journey, no matter what transport mode we are using, we must feel safe.

At Auckland Transport (AT), our safety vision is part of a wider safety philosophy designed to greatly reduce transport events that cause death and suffering.

Our strategy acknowledges that people, no matter how well trained or skilled, will make mistakes. The transport system must be designed, built and operated in a way that a mistake does not mean that you lose your life or are seriously injured.

Internationally, this approach to transport safety is known as Vision Zero. It is recognised as the benchmark for transport safety and it is a paradigm shift in thinking and action from the old school approach to road safety of only retrospectively treating blackspots on the network and levelling the blame for any crash at the drivers involved.

Vision Zero puts people first. It’s based on the principle that it is not acceptable for people to be killed or seriously injured when using the transport network. It does not mean that there will be no crashes, but it does mean that when a crash does occur that the transport system is designed, built and operated in such a way that people will not be killed or seriously injured due to road trauma.

Auckland Transport, along with our transport safety partners on the Tamaki Makaurau Transport Safety Governance Group, developed Vision Zero for Tamaki Makaurau, which is a world class Vision Zero strategy approved by the Auckland Transport board in October 2019. It aligns strongly with the central government’s Road to Zero strategy.

To facilitate the implementation of the strategy, the AT board also approved a road safety program business case that included modelling and a target of a 60% reduction in death and serious injury on Auckland’s roads over the 10-year life of the program business case. This includes programs focussing on road safety education, infrastructure, actions targeting a safer vehicle fleet, and safe and appropriate speeds.

The Vision Zero strategy calls out for all parts of the system to be strengthened. A 2018 study from the AA research foundation found that more than half of all fatal crashes and more than 70 per cent of serious injury crashes involved no reckless behaviour. Drivers were generally following the road rules, but they made a mistake or something unexpected happened, resulting in a fatal or serious injury crash. These results are consistent with results from around the world.

Road Safety is an opinion-rich area and people often react when speeds are reduced, and they say why don’t you fix the roads instead of reducing the speed limit? A key message is that the speed management bylaw implementation is one part of a broader plan, it’s an important part, but it’s one part of a multi-faceted plan to reduce death pain and suffering resulting from road trauma.

Speed is not the cause of all crashes, but it will determine the outcome of every crash.

Even small reductions in travel speed can result in significant reductions in the energy involved in crashes and consequently the survivability rates of crashes. This comes back to high school physics and Newton’s law of kinetic energy which says that the kinetic energy in a moving object is half its mass times its velocity squared. It’s the velocity squared part of this equation that is the killer. It means that if a car travelling at 75km/h increases its speed to say 100km/h, then the energy in the vehicle is almost doubled. It’s this energy that is transferred through your body when you crash, it’s this energy that determines if you live or die or if you are seriously injured.

A reduction in the travelling speed of the vehicle fleet will, regardless of the cause of crashes, result in less death and serious injury.

There is ample evidence of this approach working, and working well, both in New Zealand and overseas:

Queen Street had a 30km/h speed reduction in 2008 and comparing the 10 years before and after this change, crash rates fell by 39.8%, including a 36% reduction in deaths and serious injuries.

Our modelling indicates that with the reductions, as part of the first tranche of speed management, we are looking at saving around 84 people from death or serious injury over the next five years; and up to 24 of these people will be in the city heart.

We will be evaluating the program by assessing the amount that travel has reduced, looking at community sentiment, and ultimately, we will be monitoring death and serious injury rates in the future.

- Bryan Sherritt – Auckland Transport’s executive general manager, safety