NZTA Needs to Get Back to Basics in Reducing Road Carnage

Get back to basics before dreaming of tech bro solutions


With the road death toll running away (it is worse than last time last year) our transport agency seems to be lost on how to handle the carnage.




From NZTA:

The NZ Transport Agency is looking for new and creative hi-tech ideas to help save lives on the road.

It’s hosting a Hackathon – a sort of technology-driven brainstorming speed date – to bring together people with diverse skills, interests and perspectives to solve problems.

“We’ll have 120 people coming together in teams for 48 hours to come up with  creative new ideas to help prevent needless deaths and serious injuries on our roads,” says the Transport Agency’s Safety and Environment Director Harry Wilson.

“We don’t know what we’ll get and we’re open to all ideas, but we’re looking for problem solving with a clear focus on the outcome – preventing crashes and saving lives.”

“The Hackathon’s theme is “Save One More Life”. Last year 379 people died on our roads, and every one of those lives lost is a tragedy. We’re looking for new ways to make our roads safer and improve driver behaviour.”

“It’s about unleashing the potential of technology to reduce the road toll,” says Mr Wilson.

“The idea is to bring together new technology and digital innovation and some free thinking and fresh perspectives. We’re looking for new ideas that can meaningfully impact road safety in New Zealand.”

Mr Wilson says the Transport Agency will be asking teams to keep the ‘Safe System’ approach front of mind as they build their solutions. The Safe System approach aims for a more forgiving road system that takes human fallibility and vulnerability into account.

“Under a Safe System, we design the whole transport system to protect people from death and serious injury,” Mr Wilson says.

The Transport Agency has suggested six challenge areas that the teams might focus on. For example it points to the fact that most people wear seat belts, but 26 per cent of road deaths in 2017 involved people not wearing seatbelts. How can technology help “make it click” every time in every vehicle?

Other challenge areas include driving too fast for the conditions, driving while impaired, making older vehicles and motorcycles safer and reducing crash risks on roads without median barriers.

Teams will also be able  to focus on a problem of their own choosing.

“We’ve got 120 people signed up on a first-in first served basis, with another 70 on a waiting list. We’ve got developers, tech experts and people with engineering or transport backgrounds. We’ve got people with a personal motivation for improving road safety. All are passionate about being involved in finding solutions to an issue which affects communities and so many people.”

The Hackathon will take place in Auckland on 16-18 March. Participants will come together on the Friday night, divide into teams and spend Saturday and Sunday working on their product or service idea. They’ll have access to data and APIs from the Transport Agency and its partners.

On Sunday afternoon they’ll present their concepts and prototypes. Teams are not required to produce a fully implemented solution, but a judging panel will award prizes to the top three concepts.

“We are in for a really exciting time as we engage with everyday transport users who also just happen to be really smart thinkers and technology innovators. There is no limit to what they might come up with,” says Mr Wilson.

Media interested in attending the Hackathon should contact the Transport Agency’s Auckland Media Manager Darryl Walker.

More information about the Hackathon can be found at link)

More info about the safe system is at




Effectively pie-in-the-sky stuff while ignoring the basics. Replies were swift including mine below:


No “digital” solution is going to mitigate out the most basic errors (and stupidity) of driving on our roads. Low-tech basic solutions however, will and are proven to do so time and time again. Median and side barriers as well as dropping the speed limit to 80km/h will not stop the crash but it will mitigate the impact of the crash through lower energy expended from the crash itself (laws of physics) and the impact on other people (the median or side barrier).

Town Bypasses have the double effect of easing congestion inside a town centre and keeping through traffic moving while large Roundabouts like at SH2/25 help traffic navigate heavily utilised intersections (and again prevent crashes like we see on the SH1/29 intersection).

And of course more police enforcement would be a deterrent and punishment for those engaging in risky driving.


Until NZTA gets the absolute basics right using low-tech first (it is on record saying that if it had $800m it could have engaged in basic road upgrades that would have shaved at least 33% off last year’s road toll) then it is simply engaging pie-in-the sky stuff looking at the high-tech wares.

Use what you have first and use it better as you will find that the evolution from the basic low-tech stuff will evolve into that high-tech wares you are looking for (led lighting at intersections or on side barriers around a corner when a car approaches being one).

As for things like no seat belts and speed? I believe the tech already exists: immobilise the car if no seat belt is engaged, to make it compulsory for speed limiters (like trucks have), and your headlights being on (like the EU).


Southern Motorway 1963




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