Dutch children riding safely to school
Dutch children riding safely to school

Following on from the recent posts on De Pijp in Amsterdam and riding to school, this article  recently appeared on the View from the Cycle Path blog which really leaped out after the recent posts and thinking about the supposed priority for children in NZ roading policies.

As a new father of a little girl, I really lament the fact that she will not grow up having the same freedom of movement as I did as a child in Christchurch in the 1980s. Ironically, the earthquake that destroyed my home city may be the saving grace for resurrecting Christchurch’s bicycle culture. The recent comparisons on Transport Blog between cycle spending in Auckland and Christchurch tell the story very clearly – Auckland’s “leaders” dont care about the independence or safety of our children.

A child cycling safely in Austin, Texas
A child cycling safely in Austin, Texas

This is not an accident and it is not the result of anything inherently special or different about Auckland. It is a conscious and calculated decision to prioritise the movement of large numbers of cars over the safety of our most vulnerable citizens. The New Zealand Medical Journal has recently published a paper stating:

Child passenger injury from road traffic crashes is a leading contributor to New Zealand’s paediatric trauma-related mortality and morbidity. New Zealand has significantly higher rates of child passenger injury than internationally comparable countries.

I am not going to just regurgitate the blog post for you as it is impossible to state the clear cut arguments any better than David Hembrow has. However, I just want to quickly state some statistics that illustrate the point:

NZ – Third worst child road death toll [Editor’s note: however please see this paper from NZTA which seems to suggest it is not quite that bad] and the highest rate of child and adolescent deaths from injuries in the OECD. According to SafeKids.org.nz, 38.8% of child deaths between 2001 and 2005 were the result of traffic related incidents.

In the Netherlands, statistics like this in the 1960s lead to a massive outcry and a complete rethink on transport policy. What does it say about New Zealand society that the same thing isn’t happening here?

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5 responses to “Child friendly New Zealand?

  1. Not wishing to spoil the party, but I’m worried that a “myth” is going to take on “fact” status if it keeps getting repeated. The NZMJ article points to a completely irrelevant reference and presumably is actually referring to an outdated child safety reference from ~12 years ago. We do NOT have the third worst child road death toll (I presume they mean “rate”) in the OECD. You can find an international comparison of NZ road safety with other countries at http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/roadcrashstatistics/motorvehiclecrashesinnewzealand/. The 2012 stats give child (0-14) deaths as 1.2 per 100,000 in NZ – or 19th out of 28 countries (better than Australia’s too I see). Still plenty of room for improvement (e.g. Netherlands is half our rate), but let’s not invoke alarmist but wrong stats. We’re middle of the pack and could do better.

    1. Thanks a lot for that Glen. I am a bit disappointed that I cant rely on a NZMJ paper. I was also surprised that we were so bad as I know our safety has improved.

      When I looked at the Table 3 in there, I could only see 8 countries with a child (0-14) death rate higher than 1.2 per 100,000 – which would suggest that NZ is equal at number 9 with Portugal. Or am I reading that wrong?

      1. By 19th, I mean 19th best (well-equal best), which also technically means 9th-equal worst. But there were a whole pile only just better than us (1.1 per 100,000) so, as far as I’m concerned we were in the middle bunch.

        The other thing to bear in mind is that the calcs are based on very small numbers – we only killed 11 kids on our roads in 2011 when the comparison was made. The year before we killed 18, so our ranking was worse. Iceland went from having the best rate in 2010 (0.0) to the worst in 2011 (3.0), but then they only have 1/10 of our population so their numbers are very small.

        1. Ah I see – yes.

          OK so we are not that bad but could do better. And I take your point on small populations – probably also the reason for Slovenia’s bad stats with only 2m people.

          Certainly why would we not want to half the number of deaths – NZ certainly responded well when 50 odd children were dying of SIDS. And we have almost halved that number.

          Extrapolating from 1.2 per 100,000 in a population of 4.5m, that must mean the number of child traffic deaths is around the same at 50?

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