nzherald.co.nz's Motoring Editor Matt Greenop gives his views on the proposed changes to driving rules announced by Transport Minister Steven Joyce
Transport Minister Stephen Joyce's sweeping list of changes to the country's road user strategy includes something that's been needed for a long time.
An investigation into vehicle power restrictions is something that this country has been crying out for. But if changes were made, they would have to approached carefully and intelligently - an area where New Zealand transport rules have often failed dismally.
Cars available to young drivers today are a far cry from the gutless budget vehicles of yore. Modern turbocharged four-cylinder cars are pushing out the same sort of power as V8-toting 70s muscle cars - and in the hands of a 16-year-old this is potentially incredibly dangerous.
For years, learner motorcyclists have been allowed to jump on bikes 250cc and under. This was all well and good back in the day, but there is now no shortage of small bikes capable of more than twice the legal speed limit. Changes are certainly needed here too.
But quick cars have been completely ignored. Teenagers can't cope with machines putting out several hundred horsepower, capable of 0-100km/h acceleration in the region of six or seven seconds and top speeds of 200km/h plus.
Allowing novices on the roads in these sorts of vehicles - which are often modified to put out even more power - is, to put it bluntly, irresponsible. A rule change would calm down any 'boy racer' problems - or at least put this much-maligned section of the market into less-powerful cars until they've had enough time behind the wheel to learn the lessons that often come only with experience.
A power-to-weight ratio limit is likely to be the best approach to these type of changes.
If those who fall in the restricted age group think they can handle the jandal, force them to complete an advanced driving course, put a wee stamp on their licence and then let them drive the vehicle they want, as they'll have the skills to safely cope with it.
While raising the driving age to 16 is going to help keep the less mature road users on a tight leash for 12 months longer, there is no substitute for quality driving education - both during the learning phase and the critical years that follow.
This is another vital area that Joyce touched on this morning and, if properly thought out and taking into account input from all sorts of road users, it could undoubtedly trim some big numbers from the road toll.
Many in rural areas - where teens have no public transport option and actually need a licence - are already jumping up and down about lowering the driving age. It makes sense to look at an advanced driving course education as a way to keep 15-year-olds on the road, but giving them the necessary ability to do so safely.
It was also announced that Joyce will put a new package on drink-driving to Cabinet in April.
This will crack down on drink drivers, especially recidivist offenders and suggest compulsory devices to lock vehicles down if alcohol is detected.
One thing is for sure, New Zealand needs to be less namby-pamby about repeat drink drivers. Make it simple: if they keep doing it, lock the bastards up.
Threatening incarceration while heaping on more fines and disqualification periods - which are often left unpaid or totally ignored anyway - is not the way to discourage what is undoubtedly one of the biggest dangers the road-using public has to face.
Lowering the alcohol limit could be good idea. But it needs to be considered carefully, using the right research and quality consultation. The reality is that we're not enforcing the laws now at the sharp end of repeat drink drivers.
And changes to the give way rule? That's just asking for trouble.