A shift in attitudes towards drink driving was the major change seen by retired police superintendent Paula Rose in her 27 years in road policing.
"When I started with the Ministry of Transport in 1984 the amounts people would drink and the social acceptance of drink driving was light years away from what it is today," she said at an investiture ceremony today.
"We've still got too many people drinking and driving but attitudes are changing, we've got some wonderful young people doing great things.
"We've got to keep separating drinking and driving. That's going to save lives."
Mrs Rose, from Upper Hutt, was made a companion of the Queen's Service Order for services to police and the community in the New Year Honours list.
She received the insignia from Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae at an investiture ceremony at Government House in Wellington today.
Mrs Rose was police national road policing manager for four years until her retirement last year - during which time New Zealand's road toll reached a 60-year low.
She oversaw the introduction of the zero alcohol allowance for teenage drivers, the ban on cellphones when driving, and a reduced speed tolerance for holiday weekends.
The lower speed tolerance was a challenging but successful initiative, she said, and she hoped police would implement it permanently when the time was right.
"It was a hard thing to get in. It was difficult for New Zealanders because they don't think they're villains if they speed, and they're not. It's the impact of speed if they have a crash."
Since retiring from the police, she has been deputy chairwoman independent taskforce on workplace health and safety, and is working as an executive advisor for Paula Bennett, focusing on child safety.
She said while her wardrobe may have changed, the work was still focused on the same goal. "Whether it's the taskforce on health and safety or road safety, it's actually about the quality of our lives."