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Govt's $600m plan to bring down road toll

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/06/2016
<span style="font-size:13px;">Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss have announced a $600 million plan to make safety improvements to roads.</span> © TVNZ Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss have announced a $600 million plan to make safety improvements to roads.

The government will spend $600 million upgrading some of New Zealand's deadliest roads in a bid to bring down the road toll.

Announced by Transport Minister Simon Bridges on Thursday, the Safer Roads and Roadsides Programme will mean safety improvements will be made to more than 90 high-risk sites on rural state highways.

It includes nearly all high risk roads where there have been five or more fatalities in the last five years and it could mean 900 fewer deaths and serious injuries over the next 10 years,

Mr Bridges says. "It's a significant step up in road safety investment by the government and reinforces our commitment to reducing death and serious injury crashes."

Eight out of 10 fatal and serious crashes on state highways occur on rural roads and 85 to 90 per cent of those crashes are head-on or a driver runs off the road.

"The road improvements will make roads more forgiving of human error, helping to reduce the occurrence of crashes in the first place and limiting the severity when they do," Mr Bridges said.

The safety improvements will include realignment of corners in some areas to improve visibility, side barriers, median barriers, rumble strips, wide centrelines, road marking and improved signage.

But Mr Bridges admitted the upgrade programme won't be a "solve all". "New Zealand drivers have to do their bit as well," he told reporters.

"There's some shoddy driving behaviour that has to change."

Up to $100m will be invested annually in the programme over six years - $60m more than is usually invested each year in road safety improvements.

The AA's motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon says the programme will save lives. "People commonly complain that New Zealand's roads, particularly our rural highways, aren't as safe as other countries.

This investment by the government is going to help improve that," he said. In 2015, 319 people died on the roads - a significant increase from 2013's record low road toll of 253.

So far this year, 161 people have died on the roads.

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