Back in the day, we used to talk about road safety in the context of three Es - engineering, education and enforcement were the combination of factors we needed to focus on to make our roads safer. To those, I would add a fourth E - enthusiasm, but more about that later.
Around 10 years ago, these evolved to Safer Journeys - a framework and a strategy which identified safer roads and roadsides, safer vehicles, safer speeds and safer road use as the combination to create a more forgiving road system, reducing the price we pay for human error on our roads.
Some specifics of Safer Journeys have been: targeting high-risk drivers, installing safety barriers and rumble strips, mandating safety measures on cars and reviewing speed limits. But, the number of fatal and serious crashes in New Zealand has remained stubbornly higher than we would expect under a focused national strategy.
Last year the Government introduced "Road to Zero" as a long term visionary approach which takes the view that no death or serious injury on New Zealand roads is acceptable.
It signals a strategy that recognises humans are vulnerable, the transport system needs to plan for people's mistakes, all parts of the road system need to be strengthened, all interventions need to be evidence-based and that safety is the priority in decision making ahead of efficiency.
All this sounds like bureaucratic speak, but for the first time, Road to Zero introduces a target - to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 40 per cent during the next decade.
That would mean 750 fewer people killed and 5600 fewer seriously injured by 2030. Last year's road toll was 353 so we should expect that to be down to 210 over the next 10 years.
The modelling to achieve this requires that $1 billion a year is spent on road safety improvements. This includes 1000km of additional median barriers, 1700km additional side barriers and rumble strips, 1500 intersection improvements, increasing current levels of road policing, new roadside drug testing, lower speed limits, increased speed cameras and road signage.
Road to Zero is based on "Vision Zero", a long-term Swedish vision in which the whole population became focused on the implementation of the strategy. The missing link with Road to Zero is in engaging hearts and minds and invoking some enthusiasm and commitment to make the goal happen.
While this public dimension is missing at this stage, that does not mean that enthusiasm and commitment for road safety does not exist in our community.
Northland Road Safety Trust and its parent Northland Road Safety Association have been delivering road safety education and promotion for around 40 years now, with passionate volunteers being behind much of that activity.
During this whole time Bill Rossiter has been involved. Initially he was a volunteer, then an employee and more latterly as a trustee.
Bill and his team mounted displays and campaigns around child restraints, reflective clothing, seat belts and cycle helmets.
They took on co-ordinating defensive driving courses based on donated equipment. They turned a two-week radio campaign on cycle helmets into a two-year programme giving away a donated cycle helmet every school day.
Then Bill became an employee, running driver licence courses on over 60 marae in Northland and becoming a local legend in road safety. Bill recently retired as a trustee after 40 years commitment.
Nineteen years ago, Bill's successor as road safety programme manager was Gillian Archer and only two weeks ago Gillian handed on her reins to Ashley Johnston as the advocate for road safety in Whangārei and Kaipara Districts.
Gillian has become a legend in her own right. She has developed some award-winning programmes over the 19 years, particularly relating to alcohol management, recidivist drink driving, young drivers, fatigued driving, child restraints and the community mentor driving programme.
She has engaged with several professional organisations, community groups and volunteers and, what was evident at her farewell function, was the affection, passion and enthusiasm of the people she has worked with.
Our Covid-19 response and outcome is evidence of what is possible when we all embrace a strategy.
Road to Zero is not just about spending money. It needs an enthusiastic people response as well.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.