Well-being is discussed more and more these days. How about well-being on our roads?

At the time of writing this column, half of the 2019 Northland road deaths had occurred on roads in Whangārei District.

How can we ensure every traveller on our roads gets to their destination safely? What can we do to stop our road toll from rising?

The NZ Transport Agency has developed "Safe System", a nationwide strategy focused on creating "safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles and safe road use".

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The Safe System kaupapa is different because it removes blame from the equation, acknowledging that even experienced, mature drivers have accidents.

It's all about positive reinforcement rather than a pointed finger, with a focus on reminding drivers that as soon as they get behind the wheel, there are risks.

We need to remember that the ultimate person who has control is the driver.

Police serious crash unit investigators at the scene of a fatal crash in Northland earlier this year. Photo/Peter de Graaf
Police serious crash unit investigators at the scene of a fatal crash in Northland earlier this year. Photo/Peter de Graaf

We know our roads aren't perfect, and we know that there are many reasons why crashes happen.

While we still need to reinforce the zero tolerance for drink and drug driving, the Safe System strategy is reminding people that even the best drivers can be tripped up by the smallest things.

Distractions while we drive, fatigue, heavy vehicles or unbalanced loads, unfamiliar roads – we're all at risk when we drive.

Whether it's the kids in the back, the phone buzzing on the passenger seat, glare of the sun or a bend in the road you didn't see coming, it's often little things that can lead to big accidents.

So what's the answer? I think we need increased awareness, and we need to reinforce the basics: like wearing your seatbelt.

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My generation, and the generation following, had Ronald McDonald drumming the "Make it Click" campaign into us; reinforcing the need to "buckle up" when you're in the car.

I asked a few kids whether they knew what "make it click" meant, and they had no idea.

We need to reinforce the basics, like wearing your seatbelt. Photo/File
We need to reinforce the basics, like wearing your seatbelt. Photo/File

While I'm not suggesting we choose a fast food mascot to serve up our road safety messages, I do think we need to reach the younger generations in a way that will resonate with them.

Have you heard of "Baby Shark"? Maybe this could be the new sound of road safety in New Zealand – or could we develop a new "Fortnite" dance to get the "make it click" message across?

However we do it, the need to get our younger generation on board with road safety is real.

I would love to hear your ideas on how to get the seatbelt message across to our tamariki and mokopuna, so it's completely ingrained in their psyche before they even take their first driving lesson.

Kia tupato: every time you get in a car, try singing "Baby Shark doo doo doo doo to yourself and MAKE IT CLICK, doo doo doo doo"!

* Sheryl Mai is Mayor of Whangarei District.