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To make New Zealand’s roads safer for road users, we continue to work towards embracing the Safe System approach adopted in the government’s Safer journeys road safety strategy. This differs from traditional approaches to road safety. Rather than just blaming the user for causing a crash, it acknowledges that even responsible people sometimes make mistakes in their use of the road transport system.

A safe system endeavours to minimise these errors and to reduce the severity of crashes when errors occur.

Diagram of the Safe System.

Forgiving roads and roadsides

A major focus of our safety activities is on putting in place measures that help prevent road crashes from occurring. However, no matter how many measures we develop, factors outside of our control, such as driver error, mean that road crashes will still occur. That's why one of our supporting prevention measures is the creation of 'forgiving roads and roadsides'. Roadsides are areas beside a road that provide the safest possible environment for vehicles in the event that they leave the road.

Features of forgiving roads and roadsides

Features of forgiving roads and roadsides include:

  • median barriers to help prevent high severity head-on crashes

  • roadside barriers to redirect out-of-control vehicles away from potential roadside hazards

  • clear roadside areas (known as clear zones) where there are no obstacles, such as trees, that a vehicle could hit

  • roadside slopes that enable a vehicle driver to either regain control or bring their vehicle to a safe stop.

Readable roads

'Readable roads' enable drivers to see, think about and make good decisions on travelling at a safe speed for the conditions and an appropriate position on the road. They have easily seen and understood signs and markings that give drivers clear guidance to using the state highways safely and complement information from the natural road environment.

Features of readable roads

Signs and markings include:

  • destination signs, which indicate the general direction that drivers should take

  • warning signs, which alert drivers to particular features that need special care, such as curves that they need to slow down for

  • signs that require drivers to take particular actions, such as stopping at intersections with poor visibility

  • road markings, which guide drivers along the way and indicate the layout of the road ahead, showing the lanes that can be used and showing the shapes of curves and hollows. Yellow lines indicate actions that are prohibited in places, such as overtaking.

We use the latest technology and strict maintenance programmes to ensure that these signs and markings are clearly visible day and night and in all weather conditions.

When deciding on whether to create additional or new signs, we consider:

  • how bends combine with hills

  • how well the edge of the road is defined

  • whether there are any misleading signals or signs that could be misinterpreted

  • whether the road ahead is similar to the rest of that part of the network.