After a month of tragedy on New Zealand roads, Road Safety Week couldn’t be coming at a better time. The week is part of a global UN initiative to raise awareness about road safety and prevent needless deaths and injuries. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Save Lives #SpeakUp’.
April saw the highest national road toll in a decade, with 45 people killed in numerous crashes. The most devastating crash was near Atiamuri on April 28 and claimed the lives of eight people, including seven members of the same whānau. Five of them were children aged 7-13.
Hundreds attended the service for the family at Moteo Marae on Thursday, where all seven open caskets were laid.
Road Safety Week was launched at Takanini School in Auckland by road safety charity Brake, the NZ Transport Agency, NZ Police, St John, Auckland Transport, the Yellow Ribbon Road Safety Alliance and others. Takanini School is one of more than 850 schools, kindergartens, companies and communities getting involved in the week around the country.
The local Takanini Residents’ Action Group has been campaigning for road safety improvements around the school and in the local community. Issues they have identified include drivers speeding and running stop signs and a lack of safe crossing points for pedestrians to local amenities.
Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter says, "The number of deaths on our roads is simply heartbreaking. It’s really important that we all speak up about road safety, whether it’s at a personal or professional level. For instance, last year nearly a quarter of all passenger vehicle fatalities involved people not wearing a seat belt. In my role as minister with responsibility for road safety, speaking up and delivering road safety outcomes that reduce, or eliminate, the number of lives lost or seriously injured in road crashes is the primary goal for me."
Last year, the national road toll was 379 - more than one a day. This is the fifth United Nations Global Road Safety Week, an initiative which works to prevent road deaths and injuries and to support people bereaved and injured in crashes across the world, including Aotearoa.