Advance the Safe System approach

Goal for 2020

By 2020 New Zealand will have made demonstrable progress in creating a safe road system.

Where we are 

The agencies represented on the National Road Safety Committee are increasingly using the Safe System approach as a reference point in planning, developing and maintaining road transport.  However work is still needed to embed the Safe System approach in all aspects of planning, implementation and communication. We also want to improve understanding and use of the Safe System approach to a wider group of system designers, including the private sector.

Public communication around road safety often focuses on blaming the driver, rider or pedestrian instead of taking a wider Safe System view that considers vehicles, roads and roadsides, speed, and all road users.  

Where we want to be by 2016

By 2016 we want the Safe System approach to be accepted and followed as the approach for improving road safety.

Legal and technical changes around road safety remain useful road safety tools but can only take us part of the way to a safe road system. We want to have engaged with all system designers, and to have built a sense of shared responsibility and purpose.

A shift in public understanding and perception and demand for road safety is also needed.  In particular we need the public actively demanding a more forgiving road system.   


Work will continue on the actions to embed the Safe System identified in the 2011-2012 Action Plan but below are the additional actions identified for 2013-2015.

Actions already underway to communicate and embed the Safe System approach and grow capability in applying it will continue as part of core business. We'll also review organisational systems, processes, procedures and guidelines to ensure they promote the approach. 

To embed the Safe System approach we also need to demonstrate its effectiveness, establish partnerships with a wider set of system designers, and build public understanding and demand for road safety through a reframed conversation. The actions below will help do this, and they also set the framework for how many other actions in this plan will be implemented.

Complete Safe System Signature Projects

In the first year of the action plan we will identify signature projects that have the potential to make demonstrable advances in reducing road trauma for all road users (riders, drivers and pedestrians) by implementing the Safe System approach within regions and communities (examples include addressing high-risk corridors, and communities and regions with proven treatments and innovative trials). These signature projects will be well-resourced initiatives that demonstrate innovation, and give effect to Safe System principles and reduce road casualties. Not all of them will strenthen every element of the system but each project will aim to showcase the benefits of the overall Safe System approach. They will be advanced in partnership with a range of stakeholders. As the purpose is to showcase best or emerging practice, develop understanding and demand for improved road safety from a wider audience, and reduce road trauma, project design will include evaluation and communication work streams.

Establish a Safe System partnership programme

Safer Journeys emphasises shared responsibility for road safety, and the Safe System approach recognises the vital role that local government, the private sector, advocacy groups and the community play in road safety.

Individual projects in this plan will need new partnerships to be forged. We want to establish a collaborative network, share good practice, and seek ways to improve road safety outside of traditional approaches, establishing new working models and funding mechanisms where necessary.

Drawing on Australian experience, the National Road Safety Committee will establish a similar model, including local government and private sector champions of road safety and nongovernmental organisations. Several new initiatives in 2014 will be launched to demonstrate how strong partnerships can reduce road trauma. 

Reframe the road safety conversation

We need to raise awareness of what really contributes to road safety and what actions reflect that understanding. A key step will be to increase community understanding that compliance alone will not guarantee safety on the roads. This conversation may include incentives to promote a higher level of driver and rider performance – in effect to encourage people to become five-star users of the road.

We need people to accept the continuing challenge of working together to reduce community acceptance of road death and serious injury, because road safety is everyone’s responsibility. The aim is have communities who demand a safer road system forgiving of human error.

Many projects to create a more forgiving road system will require public consultation and support to proceed (for example, revisions to speed policy). Consultation will be more effective if communities understand and support the long-term goal. Unified messages and consistent approaches are also important.  

We will incorporate new messages and new approaches into existing engagement and communication programmes to increase demand for road safety and reframe the conversation about shared responsibility. The way the programme is developed will ensure that engagement is two-way and meets the needs of the community, especially those groups over-represented in road deaths and injuries. Different systems of communication and media will help to build support effectively for the change necessary to create a truly Safe System.

Diagram summarising the actions for the Safe System approach

NRSC Milestones

The Safe System programme will include projects that demonstrate how fatal and serious injuries for all road users can be reduced by working collaboratively with new partners. The programme includes the following actions:

  • By December 2013 the national signature programme will be launched with a minimum of four projects identified and communicated.
  • By June 2014 funding will be secured and implementation work started on all signature projects.
  • In 2013 a Safe System partnership programme will be developed and at least two new initiatives with new partners will be developed in 2014. 

Safe System

A Safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury