A Northland major trauma surgeon believes a multi-layered approach to the issue of preventing serious road injuries and deaths is the best way to help save people's lives.
Dr Chris Harmston, clinical director of General Surgery at Whangarei Hospital, has worked at the hospital for around six years and is at the coalface of receiving patients hurt or dying as a result of a road accident.
Harmston said too many people were ending up in hospital as a result of excess speed, distraction or other factors, particularly young Māori men living in rural areas.
He said it was extremely frustrating for him and his colleagues to constantly see patients come through the door with serious injuries or who had died as a result of a preventable accident.
"This really frustrates all people in the medical profession because these are people's sons and daughters," Harmston said.
"It's not just about people dying either, many people are often left severely disabled or with long-term health effects from their accident.
"There is irrefutable evidence that speed is a major contributor to these accidents, so if we can prevent that- without causing harm or significant effects elsewhere- then in my opinion it's a no-brainer."
According to Waka Kotahi, in the years between 2011 and 2020, 160 people were killed and 734 suffered serious injuries in crashes across Northland's state highway network.
Waka Kotahi is on a mission to reduce the number of serious road injuries and deaths to zero under its new road safety campaign, Road to Zero, launched earlier this year.
Harmston agreed that reducing speed had proven successful in other countries such as Australia, but said taking a binary approach to the issue wasn't necessarily helpful.
He said in his opinion creating true change in road death and serious injury statistics would require a more holistic approach.
"Speed is just part of the jigsaw and we need to look at how we can reduce traffic collisions by looking at all the contributing factors such as speed, road conditions, drug and alcohol use, distraction, fatigue etc," he said.
"In Australia, they had a programme whereby they effectively targeted all of these areas which were very successful.
"There's no doubt, however, that speed is a major contributor to all road deaths, which sits at 30 per cent.
"That makes it a relatively modifiable factor. While I can understand the critique of just looking at speed, you can't deny the data that shows monitoring and reducing speed does make a difference."
Harmston said he believed more should be done to consult with victims of serious road injuries to gather information about their experiences.
"We need to talk to more people who have been involved in these accidents, who've suffered disabilities, to better understand what the outcomes of road traffic accidents are on people's lives," he said.
"There is already a bit of work in New Zealand happening in that area with patient report outcomes in trauma, which is really important and powerful."
To hear more from Dr Harmston on his work with major trauma victims, click here.