Media interest this week was around International Women’s Day, which was Friday last week, and the government scrapping Road to Zero.

It may sound weird but there are similarities in how I think about these.

The Road to Zero was launched with much fanfare in 2019 and it set an interim target of a 40% reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2030 against a 2018 baseline. That meant the road toll in 2030 would equate to 227 deaths. The histogram below shows how things were actually tracking as we approached half way and I don’t think even the most optimistic person would suggest things were on track.

There have been mixed reactions to government scrapping it but given that programme was so far off track delivering the intended results I think it was a good thing to stop and it would have been irresponsible not to make a change. In fact, it concerns me that the agency delivering the strategy appeared almost oblivious to results and if government hadn’t shown some leadership and stepped in, then Waka Kotahi would have merrily continued on its way.

The weird thing is that despite this announcement I don’t think it will mean people value road safety less. Whether you’re talking to Police, Waka Kotahi or truck drivers, I don’t believe   how those people as individuals value road deaths and road trauma will change. I worked at Waka Kotahi from 1996 to 2005 and the people there seemed just as passionate, committed and invested in bringing the road toll down as the people that are there now or the people before them.

I think it’s easy to overstate the impact and influence of strategies, and that fundamentally the necessity of having a combination of engineering, education, and enforcement has never changed. Too often we tend to over complicate things and there’s a risk that new strategies are simply more about marketing something differently rather than getting different results.

I try and look at things as simply as I can and from my experience, I think people tend to make their decisions based on more fundamental things, like trying to stop killing people while carrying out business is simply the right thing to do. That is a greater influence than any government strategy at the time.

So now my tie in to International Women’s Day. Increasing Diversity is a foundation block of our Attracting Talent strategy pillar. It’s important because we have an ageing driver population and a relatively large proportion of that workforce will reach retiring age around the same time. Promoting increased diversity is one element of addressing that issue; however, I’d also argue that treating people fairly and reasonably regardless of their gender or their race or any other minority aspect is also about just doing what’s right.

I hope I’m not wrong but I don’t think the loss of Road to Zero is a bad thing; in fact, I think it will lead to better outcomes.

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