Helping Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to save lives on our roads

A longstanding collaborative road safety partnership

Abley has worked with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency on strategic road safety initiatives since 2012.

One of the first large pieces of work we did with the Agency was developing SafetyNET. This project mapped risk across the state highway network using both proactive and reactive risk metrics. This was used by Waka Kotahi to identify locations needing road safety improvements.

In 2016, we helped Waka Kotahi develop the technical framework for their national speed management guide. The Transport Agency wanted to move towards a Safe Systems approach for identifying safe and appropriate speeds across the road network.

Abley determined the safe and appropriate speed over the entire New Zealand road network, 100,000kms of road, using a range of risk metrics.  We presented the data as an interactive digital tool called the Safer Journeys Risk Assessment Tool, often referred to as Mega Maps. The Agency and local authorities use Mega Maps to determine and prioritise speed management projects, including safety upgrades and speed limit changes.

What scale of effort do we need to reduce road deaths and serious injuries?

Mega Maps associates risk metrics with every road in the country. Through our involvement in the project we developed expertise and capability that Waka Kotahi value. So, when the Agency started work on their new road safety strategy in 2018, they came to Abley to ask if Mega Maps could also help them understand how many deaths and serious injuries could be prevented through road safety investment.

The agency went through a process to identify the different levels of investment required to deliver a range of death and serious injury reductions targets.

At the end of this process, the New Zealand government committed to a 40% reduction in road deaths and serious injuries by 2030. New Zealand’s previous road safety strategy set no clear targets for improvements in these areas.

Once the 40% reduction target had been set, Waka Kotahi called together stakeholder experts to contribute to the Road to Zero road safety strategy. The Abley Road Safety team were part of this group.

megamaps computer screen

Prioritising road safety investment

To ensure value for money, the Agency needed to understand the various benefits which different types of road safety improvements could achieve nationwide. We used modelling to compare these differences. For example, we considered the effectiveness of rolling out a speed management plan versus infrastructure improvements such as median barrier or roadside barrier.

The Agency considered 14 road safety interventions and discovered enough robust information to support the rollout of ten road safety programmes nationwide. Four of those strategic road safety programmes are informed by modelling work the Agency did with Abley.

A 10-year framework for delivering safer roads

Our input not only formed the basis of their overarching model for reducing deaths and injuries on the roads, but also provided a framework for implementing road safety programmes over the next 10 years.

Half of their 40% target will be met from infrastructure improvements and speed management. So, Waka Kotahi needs to know what that programme of improvements will look like and how much it will cost.

We take data Waka Kotahi collected on factors that cause deaths and injuries across the national road network. This includes crash data, traffic volume, road characteristics, and land use next to roads.

Then we use data analysis to apply various criteria, run scenarios and evaluate risk. We assess the efficacy of different policies and infrastructure interventions. This helps Waka Kotahi prioritise their investment decisions and maximize return on investment.

My team has engaged Abley extensively over many years … The most recent work has been the delivery of the Speed Management Framework and associated mapping tool, which has not only received praise from road controlling authorities across New Zealand, but has also been the basis of recognition at international conferences and has been adopted wholly or in part by Australian states.”

Glenn Bunting,
Manager Network Safety,
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

Supporting local government to invest in safety strategically

Currently, we are helping Waka Kotahi support city and district councils to implement the Road to Zero program on their networks.

Our software team developed the Pipeline Tool web application, to help local authorities understand how many deaths and serious injuries which various safety interventions can prevent.

Many local authorities have not had a strategic overview of the riskiest roads in their networks. Without this understanding, it’s difficult for them to do anything other than address locations where accidents happen on a case by case basis. The Pipeline Tool gives them an overarching view of their network, so they can be more strategic with their road safety investment.

Waka Kotahi is running workshops with local authorities, introducing them to the various ways they can reduce deaths and injuries on their roads. The Pipeline Tool forms an integral part of these workshops, being used to test and then build road safety programmes.

Councils can then budget for improvements, prioritise the most effective projects, and submit them for funding approval to Waka Kotahi.

Waka Kotahi fully funds improvements to the state highway network and co-funds approved applications on local roads. Waka Kotahi is using the Pipeline Tool to review, prioritise and approve funding applications. Through this Tool, Abley has improved efficiency both for Waka Kotahi and for local authorities.

Providing tools that save lives and make an important difference

Abley provides tools that help Waka Kotahi and local authorities make well-informed decisions about safety improvements to the road network. Waka Kotahi tell us that our work both informs their road safety efforts and enables them to monitor those efforts.

Our work supports Waka Kotahi on five levels.

  1. When the government spends money on road safety, we have helped inform where and how they invest that money.
  2. We help to prioritise road safety projects, providing more road safety benefits for the money invested.
  3. We help to simplify and visualise complex road safety information so that politicians, councillors and the public can better understand road safety risk.
  4. We help Waka Kotahi monitor infrastructure improvements, from the number of intersections they have upgraded, to the increased proportion of vehicle traffic using safer roads.
  5. Finally, we support Waka Kotahi’s ultimate end goal, which is to reduce deaths and serious injuries.

We help them make an important difference. And that matters – to us, to Waka Kotahi, and to New Zealand.

Paul Durdin
Director, Transport