About Road Safety Week

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersMay 13, 2022

Earlier this week, I listened to a discussion about public holidays, during which a somewhat perplexing question came up. To paraphrase: ‘Do we really need a day to remember or celebrate a specific aspect of life, historical event or religious holiday?’ Quite a controversial position, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Or is it? After all, when a public holiday rolls around, how many of us use the day to acknowledge, remember or celebrate? Now, hands up all those who take advantage of a bonus day on the couch.

And that’s where the opening question comes in – why do we need a day? Why isn’t every day a day to remember or celebrate?

The timing couldn’t have been more serendipitous, as I’d been pondering a similar question regarding this week (9 – 15 May) being Road Safety Week. Why do we need a week to draw attention to road safety? Absolutely, we all need to promote the topic and truly champion it – but shouldn’t that be done every day and at every opportunity?

I suppose the point is that it’s generally not – so a dedicated week to highlight the topic and raise awareness makes sense. Of course, there’s also a fundraising element for the national road safety charity Brake, which has organised Road Safety Week in New Zealand since 2012.

The theme for this year is ‘road safety heroes’, and throughout the week, Brake has used its social media platforms to highlight various Kiwis who have a hand in driving road safety. More importantly, though, are the more than 900 organisations that registered their participation this year. With two days left in the campaign, it’s too early to judge the overall success of the week, but I sincerely hope those 900-plus organisations used the opportunity to its fullest. Because, for the most part, the week seems like a missed opportunity.

This year’s sponsors, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and engineering consultancy Beca, visited schools and donated 600 road safety-themed books titled My Mum is Queen of the Road—Ko Tōku Māmā te Kuini o te Rori. This is great, as the books could be read anytime by any child. But other than that (and I stand to be corrected), all I’ve seen from either organisation are a few token social media posts.

We know of kids nearing driving age who had class discussions this week about the topic – and that was it. Surely something more impactful could’ve been done to hammer the point home to these teenagers?

Apparently, Auckland, Taupo and Wellington lit up landmarks in yellow in support of the week. Fantastic. And then what? Where was the police presence, promotion and community engagement on major routes? (Just one post on the NZ Police Facebook page, by the way). And what did the trucking industry do? Not much, as far as we’re aware.

The more I think about it, the more disappointed I feel. It doesn’t hurt to have a day or a week, or even a month, to promote road safety. But, while I’m sure much happened behind the scenes – and does ordinarily – to my mind, it doesn’t seem the most was made of Road Safety Week 2022.

Luckily the opportunity will come around in another 12 months’ time. Until then, stay safe on the road – and give a thought to road safety whenever you can.

Gavin Myers