There’s no answer to the question road-safety campaigners are asking: why weren’t 100 of the 276 people who died in car accidents in New Zealand in 2017 wearing seatbelts?
Police highway patrolman Sergeant Mark Fleming doesn’t know. Nor does motorsport ace Greg Murphy or longtime driving educator Peter Sheppard (pictured above with Murphy). Apart, that is, from the cocksure ‘nothing will happen to me’ attitude.
All three men are aghast at the Ministry of Transport statistic – 36 per cent of drivers and passengers killed on NZ roads last year were not buckled up. What? In this day and age?
Says Fleming, the highway patrol supervisor for the Road Policing Group: “You run out to play rugby and you put in your mouthguard, because it’s a rule. Yet you get in a car and don’t put on your seatbelt …”
The three road-safety advocates were front and centre at the launch of Holden NZ’s Street Smart programme (www.holdenstreetsmart.co.nz), a nationwide initiative tailored to educate young drivers.
Its aim is to reduce accidents and fatalities, especially in the age 15-24 target group. Holden spokesperson Marnie Samphier says the programme has been two years in the making.
“We wanted to develop a practical course that provides real-world driving experience using internationally proven methods,” she said.
“Statistics tell us that fatal crashes where the driver’s contribution is significant are more likely to involve drivers under 24 years.
“A lack of experience and awareness results in poor decision making on the roads and we believe this new programme can help address this area of concern.”
Samphier said that it was sometimes assumed that alcohol or drugs were involved when young drivers had accidents.
“This is an issue, but 60 per cent of all fatal crashes involving this age group do not feature either of these contributing factors,” she said.
Sheppard, the CEO of the Institute of Driving Educators and a man with a global reputation, has done world-first studies into how younger drivers can best learn the ropes. Both he and Holden ambassador and long-time road safety campaigner Murphy helped develop the programme.
It runs during the school holidays in a controlled environment at motorsport venues – Hampton Downs, Taupo, and Feilding in the North Island, and Christchurch and Cromwell in the South Island.
Cost is $49.00 and the young drivers can have a parent or caregiver in the car with them. Instructors put the drivers through 10 hands-on exercises, schooling them specifically about:
- Head-on collision
- Following too close
- Emergency braking
- Peripheral vision
- Hazard identification.
Ages of 2017 car crash deaths
Under-15: drivers 2 – passengers 7
15-24: drivers 42 – passengers 26
25-34: drivers 40 – passengers 22
35-44: drivers 23 – passengers 3
45-54: drivers 23 – passengers 8
55-64: drivers 23 – passengers 7
65-74: drivers 18 – passengers 4
75-plus: drivers 22 – passengers 5
The age of 1 driver in the Ministry of Transport data remains unknown. The road toll last year was 379. The victims were: 194 drivers, 82 passengers, 45 motorcyclists, 40 pedestrians, and 18 cyclists.