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Public attitudes to road safety

Published: | Category: Research & reports , Statistics & surveys | Audiences: Local & regional government, Road controlling authorities, Road traffic engineers & consultants, Roading contractors

A yearly report showing public attitudes to road safety issues and behaviours to help decision makers understand public feedback.

Publication details

  • Author:
  • Published: 10 February 2022
  • Version: 2


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has a key role in delivering Road to Zero, New Zealand’s road safety strategy. The strategy adopts Vision Zero with the goal that no one in New Zealand is killed or seriously injured in road crashes.

The Public attitudes to road safety report is part of the commitment Waka Kotahi has to delivering Road to Zero. The report shows public attitudes to road safety issues and behaviours and how these are trending over time.

In 2021, we surveyed over 1,600 respondents using CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing). The questions focused on specific road safety topics, including:

  • speed
  • vehicle safety
  • driver fatigue, impairment and distraction
  • enforcement
  • Road to Zero/Vision Zero.

The report will be published annually to allow the transport sector to understand public feedback and monitor trends.

Key findings

  • Four in five New Zealanders (79%) consider our roads to be at least fairly safe to travel on, a similar level to previous years.
  • Although lower than in 2020, almost one in four New Zealanders (23%) believe there is not much chance of a crash if you are careful when you speed.
  • Most agree that the speed limit around schools in urban areas should be less than 50km/h. Those suggesting 20km/h or 30km/h has increased from 68% in 2020 to 74% in 2021.
  • Currently more New Zealanders think it is unlikely for a person to be stopped (44%) than think it is likely (27%) by Police for breaking a traffic law, other than drink driving or speeding.
  • Twice as many New Zealanders think that using safety cameras helps to reduce road deaths (60%) than disagree (28%).
  • Currently more New Zealanders think that the risk of being caught drinking and driving is small (51%) than think it is large (37%).
  • Very few (5%) claim to have driven while affected by prescription / pharmacy drugs or other drugs in the past 12 months.
  • Almost all (97%) New Zealanders think that enforcing the use of seat belts helps to reduce road deaths, with 70% in strong agreement.
  • One in four drivers (27%) have experienced fatigue when driving long distances over the last year, and one in ten (11%) while driving to, from or as part of work.
  • Almost three in five drivers (57%) claim to have made hands-free phone calls while driving in the past month compared to one in two in 2020.
  • One in two drivers (51%) know the star safety rating of the car they usually drive. Typically, those who know the rating of their car report they drive a 4 or 5 star car.
  • Only one in three (33%) consider it to be at least fairly safe to cycle on rural or open roads outside of town, and few (6%) consider it to be very safe.
  • Having been informed that around 350 people are killed each year on our roads, almost half of the population (44%) think deaths from road crashes are acceptable.
  • Public awareness of Road to Zero is low at 15%, and fewer than one in five (16%) think it is likely that no road deaths can be achieved by the year 2050.
  • There are high levels of support for potential safety initiatives including roadside drug testing (78%), higher fines for mobile phone usage (78%), and increased installation of wire rope median barriers on rural roads (70%).

The survey data is also available on the Open Data Portal(external link)

Related information

Download reports

Public attitudes to road safety – October 2020 [PDF, 2.8 MB]

Public attitudes to road safety – October 2021 [PDF, 1.4 MB]