KiwiRAP

What do drivers think about road engineering

In July 2007, the NZAA Member Opinion Survey included a series of questions to measure how motorists assessed different hazards or road safety features.

Survey respondents were presented with photographs picturing different roads and were asked to mark on a scale how safe or dangerous they thought the roads were.

Respondents were able to identify that a road with a median barrier was safer and that a road with a cliff or steep bank was more dangerous. However, respondents did not consider roads with roadside hazards such as ditches or poles as dangerous.

This lack of knowledge was reinforced when respondents were asked to imagine a situation where they were driving and lost control of a medium sized car on an open road at 70-km/h. They were asked to identify the likelihood of someone in their vehicle being killed or injured due to the existence (or absence) of a number of features. The survey results are illustrated in the graph below.

road engineering

The benefits of wearing a safety belt are obviously well known, with almost 80% of respondents marking it either almost certain or probable that someone would be killed or injured by not wearing a seatbelt.

The dangers of a cliff or a steep bank were also identified, with 75% of respondents thinking that a cliff or steep bank would mean it was probable or almost certain that someone would be killed or injured.

In contrast, roadside hazards such as deep ditches and trees were recognised by few respondents. In fact, around 12% of respondents thought it would be almost impossible or unlikely someone would be killed or injured by a deep ditch.

Crash statistics show that 50% of rural and 28% of urban accidents in New Zealand involve a roadside hazard and the majority of these are ‘single vehicle loss of control’ crashes. Major hazard types are upright cliff banks, ditches, trees and poles, with water bodies and trees contributing to particularly severe crash outcomes.

Related Links

The safe road system

How can engineering make our roads safer?

What do I do if I'm driving on a riskier stretch of road?