1 Introduction

The New Zealand survey of Public Attitudes to Road Safety has been undertaken periodically since 1974 and annually since 1994 to evaluate attitudes to road safety issues, primarily alcohol-impaired driving and speed. From 1994 to 2004 the survey was conducted for the Land Transport Safety Authority. From 2005 it has been conducted for the Ministry of Transport.

The survey is focussed on alcohol, speed and safety belts. In addition, respondents are asked their views on more general road safety issues.

This report presents the results of the survey under the following headings:

  • general attitudes to road safety and enforcement
  • alcohol-impaired driving
  • compulsory breath testing (CBT)
  • speed and speed enforcement
  • speed cameras
  • general enforcement and compliance
  • safety belts and child restraints.

2 Method

The fieldwork for the survey was carried out by an independent survey company, National Research Bureau. Surveys were carried out in May and June of each year by trained interviewers who conducted face-to-face interviews in respondents’ homes.

The sample was chosen to be representative of the New Zealand adult population and included men and women aged 15 and over from towns, cities and rural areas throughout New Zealand. In 2010, 1650 people were interviewed, 1489 of whom held drivers’ licences. Further details of the sample and methodology may be found in Appendix A.

Overview

2.1 Speed and alcohol were widely acknowledged as major road safety problems. Only six percent of New Zealanders didn’t think that drink-driving was risky, maintaining the improvement made in recent years (Figure 1). One in six (16 percent) thought that speeding wasn’t risky "as long as you are careful".

Graph showing percentage of people who agreed there isn't much chance of an accident if careful when speeding or driving after drinking

2.2 Enforcement: Public support for alcohol, speed and seatbelt enforcement continues to be high. Ninety-three percent of New Zealand adults said they would like Police efforts to enforce road safety laws increased (42 percent) or maintained at the current level (51 percent). More than three-quarters of New Zealanders say that compulsory breath testing (CBT) and speed enforcement help to lower the road toll. Support for seatbelt enforcement is even higher, with 88 percent agreeing that seatbelt enforcement helps lower the road toll.

2.3 Trends: Most indicators are at similar levels to last year. Over the last four years there has been little or no improvement in public perceptions of the risk of being caught speeding, drink-driving or failing to wear a seatbelt (see Figure 2). Individual measures that have shown significant change are discussed in the appropriate section of this report.

Graph showing percentage of people who agreed the risk of being caught is small if not wearing a seatbelt, drink-driving or speeding

3 General attitudes to road safety and enforcement

3.1 Overall, the vast majority of New Zealanders are supportive of road safety enforcement, current penalties and advertising measures aimed at reducing the road toll.

3.2 How safe is road travel in New Zealand? Seven percent of New Zealanders described road travel in this country as "very safe". A further 73 percent described it as "fairly safe"; 18 percent described it as "fairly unsafe" and 3 percent as "very unsafe"[1]. Overall, 80 percent described the roads as "very safe" or "fairly safe" in 2010, a slight decrease from 83 percent in 2009.

3.3 Road safety enforcement. Overall, public support for police enforcement remains high. Forty-two percent of New Zealanders said that police effort to catch people breaking road safety laws should be increased further. A further 51 percent wanted that effort maintained at current levels. Only six percent thought Police effort should be decreased. These results are very similar to those of recent years.

3.4 Penalties. In 2010, 43 percent of New Zealanders said that penalties for breaking road safety laws should be increased. Forty-eight percent thought penalties should remain about the same as they are now, and only 4 percent were in favour of reducing the severity of penalties. These results are similar to those in recent years.

3.5 Advertising. When asked, 36 percent of New Zealand adults thought that there should be more publicity and advertising about road safety, and 58 percent thought the amount of publicity and advertising should remain about the same as at present. Only five percent wanted to see a reduction in publicity and advertising about road safety. These results are similar to those of the last 5 years.

3.6 Road design and standards. Only 13 percent of New Zealanders described the design and standard of the roads they normally used as "very safe". A further 71 percent thought that their usual roads were "fairly safe". Sixteen percent described the design and standard of the roads they normally used as "very unsafe" or "fairly unsafe". There has been little change in this perception over the last decade.

3.7 Northland residents were most likely to describe the design and standards of their roads as unsafe; 46 percent of Northland residents described the design and standard of the roads they normally used as "very" or "fairly" unsafe.

3.8 Fatigue. Each year from 2007, respondents have been asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement "Driving when you are tired increases the chance you might have an accident". Almost everyone (98 percent) agreed with the statement. Fifty-eight percent "strongly agreed" and 40 percent "agreed". Only one percent disagreed with the statement or were neutral on the issue.

4 Alcohol impaired driving

4.1 The last decade has seen some improvements in attitudes to alcohol. Further gains have been made in the last year.

4.2 The survey results indicate increasing dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of drink-driving laws and penalties, and a rapidly increasing demand for a lower legal blood alcohol limit (see Figure 3 and 4).


4.3 Risk of crash. Recognition of the risk of drink-driving is being maintained at a high level. Only six percent of New Zealanders said "there is not much chance of an accident when driving after drinking if you are careful" (see Figure 4 above).

4.4 Blood alcohol limit. Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of New Zealanders favoured a lower legal blood-alcohol limit for driving. This has increased significantly over the last five years, from 40 percent in 2006, and is the highest support recorded since the question was first asked in 1994 (See Figure 3). Men and women were equally in favour of a lower limit.

4.5 Forty-seven percent of New Zealanders thought the limit should be lowered from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml. A further 16 percent wanted it lowered to zero. Thirty-one percent thought the limit should be left as it is. Only three percent were in favour of raising the legal limit. (The remaining three percent said they had no opinion on the subject).

4.6 Young people aged 15 to 24 were least likely to favour lowering the limit, although even among this group almost half (49 percent) wanted the limit lowered. Even among people who admitted having driven while slightly intoxicated, 48 percent were in favour of a lower alcohol limit.

4.7 How many drinks should be allowed before driving? To explore perceptions about the blood alcohol limit in a more readily accessible way, a new question was introduced in 2009. Respondents were asked how many standard drinks someone of the same gender as them should be allowed to have in an hour if they were planning to drive immediately afterwards.

4.8 The concept of a ‘standard drink’ was explained as one can of beer or one small glass of wine and supported by a photograph showing a 330ml can of beer, a small glass of wine and a 30ml serve of spirits.

4.9 Figure 5 shows the results. Ninety-one percent of women thought a woman should be allowed two or fewer drinks in the hour before driving, and 68 percent thought at most one drink should be allowed. 93 percent of men thought a man should be allowed three or fewer drinks, and 81 percent thought a man should be allowed two or fewer drinks. For most people these levels of drinking (one drink in an hour for a woman, two for a man) will result in a blood alcohol level slightly less than 50 mg/100ml. Reaching the current limit of 80mg/100ml requires about 3.5 drinks in the first hour for a man, and 2.5 drinks for a woman[2].

4.10 Overall, the large majority, 86 percent, thought drivers should be limited to two or fewer drinks during the hour. A further seven percent wanted the ceiling set at 3 drinks.

4.11 More than half (53 percent) said that drivers should be limited to one drink (or no drinks at all) in an hour. Six percent said they didn’t know. Only two percent thought drivers should be permitted more than 3 drinks in an hour before driving.

4.12 These results were similar for all age groups. Even among people who admitted to having driven while slightly intoxicated, more than three quarters (79 percent) thought the limit should be set at two or fewer drinks, and 92 percent thought the limit should be set at three or fewer drinks.

Graph showing responses to the question 'how many standard drinks should a man/woman be allowed to have in an hour if planning to drive immediately afterwards?'


4.13 Social influences. Peer pressure and social drinking remain strong influences. More than a third (35 percent) said that it was hard to keep track of what they drank on social occasions, and a similar proportion (35 percent) said it was difficult to "go easy" when drinking with friends. These results have shown little change over the last ten years (see Figure 4).

4.14 Peer pressure was felt most strongly among the young. Forty-seven percent of young people aged 15 to 24 said it was difficult to keep track of what they were drinking on social occasions and 41 percent said it was difficult to go easy and drink less than the group.

4.15 Self-reported drink-driving. The percentage of people who said they had driven while slightly intoxicated during the 12 months before the survey fell between 1995 and 1999, but has remained fairly static since (see Figure 4). In 2010, 20 percent of drivers (27 percent of male drivers) said they had driven while slightly intoxicated during the last year. These results are similar to those from recent years, but are a substantial decrease from 30 percent (41 percent of males) in 1995. (Of course, the public perception of what ‘slightly intoxicated’ means may have changed over this period; this survey does not attempt to assess this).

4.16 More than a third (36 percent) of males aged 15 to 24, said that they had driven while slightly intoxicated in the last year.

4.17 Effectiveness of law. Fifty-one percent of New Zealanders agreed that our drink-driving laws were "very" or "quite" effective at reducing the road toll. This is similar to last year, but has decreased since the early 2000s, when the number varied between 60 percent and 64 percent (see Figure 3).

4.18 Forty-four percent said that the drink-driving laws were not very effective. Only three percent thought that New Zealand’s drink-driving laws had no effect on the road toll. (One percent said they didn’t know).

4.19 People aged 60 and over were most likely to say that our drink driving laws were not effective. Fifty-eight percent of this group said that our drink driving laws have little or no effect on the road toll.

4.20 Penalties. More than half of all those surveyed (54 percent) agreed with the statement "penalties for drinking and driving are not very severe even if you are caught". This suggests either lack of awareness of the severity of current penalties, or public sympathy for tougher penalties to discourage drink-driving. This has increased steadily from 43 percent in 2005 to 54 percent in 2010.

4.21 Older people were most likely to think penalties are not very severe. Two thirds (65 percent) of people aged 60 and over said that penalties for drinking and driving were not very severe, compared to less than half (43 percent) of those aged 15-24.

4.22 People who admitted drinking and driving were more likely to think penalties were severe, than those who did not drink and drive. Of people who admitted driving while slightly intoxicated, 46 percent thought penalties for drink-driving weren’t very severe, while 58 percent of those who did not report driving while intoxicated thought penalties weren’t very severe.

5 Drink-driving enforcement

5.1 Attitudes towards drink-driving enforcement measures, including compulsory breath testing (CBT), have improved slightly over the last year (see Figure 6 and Figure 7).

5.2 CBT lowers road toll. More than three quarters (77 percent) of New Zealanders agreed that "compulsory breath testing (CBT) helps to lower the road toll". Thirteen percent disagreed with this statement. The remaining 10 percent said they were neutral or didn’t know. This has remained fairly consistent over the last decade (see Figure 6).

5.3 Drink-driving enforcement. Two fifths (40 percent) of New Zealanders said that the risk of being caught drink-driving was small (see Figure 7). Half the people aged 60 and over thought the chance of being caught drink driving was small.

5.4 Gains were made in this area over the decade 1995–2004, shown by a decrease from 49 percent agreement with this statement in 1995 to 32 percent in 2004, as New Zealanders became increasingly aware of the effectiveness of drink-driving enforcement. However the improvement has been partially reversed in the period since 2005. This is a disturbing trend in a key indicator of attitudes to alcohol enforcement.

5.5 Figure 2 (in the Overview section above) compares this trend to the perceptions of being caught speeding or without a seatbelt.

5.6 Checkpoints. Fewer people now say that they "seldom saw checkpoints except during blitzes". In 2010, 55 percent said they seldom saw checkpoints. Although still a majority view, this continues a steady improvement in awareness of checkpoints over the last three years (see Figure 7).

5.7 People over 60 were most likely to say they seldom saw checkpoints; 65 percent of people aged sixty and over said they seldom saw checkpoints, compared to 47 percent of 15 to 24 year olds.

5.8 Sixty-two percent of drivers reported having been stopped at an alcohol checkpoint at least once during the preceding 12 months. Seventy-two percent of young males (aged 15 to 24) had been stopped at a checkpoint in the last year. Of people who admitted to driving while slightly intoxicated, 64 percent had been stopped at a checkpoint at least once in the last year.

5.9 Eighteen percent of all drivers reported that they had been stopped at a checkpoint three or more times in the last year. Twenty-six percent of young males had been stopped at least three times in the last year.

5.10 People living in Manawatu / Whanganui were more likely than others to say that they seldom saw a checkpoint (69 percent) and that checkpoints could be avoided if you saw them early enough (33 percent). Half of the region’s residents (52 percent) said that the risk of being caught drinking and driving was small, compared to the national average of 40 percent.

5.11 Avoiding checkpoints. Well over a third of New Zealanders (38 percent) said that they could tell where checkpoints would be. This has remained essentially unchanged for the last decade (Figure 7). Just under a quarter (23 percent) said they use the back streets to drive home when they might be over the limit.

5.12 Rural and small town residents were most likely to think they could tell where checkpoints would be (48 percent thought they could tell, compared to 33 percent of major city dwellers and 41 percent of provincial city residents). Sixty percent of Northland residents and 57 percent of those in the Waikato thought they knew where checkpoints would be.

5.13 A quarter (25 percent) said they could often avoid checkpoints if they saw them early enough. A third (36 percent) of Gisborne region residents thought they could avoid checkpoints .

5.14 Compulsory screening. Thirteen percent of New Zealanders thought that some people stopped at checkpoints were not tested even when they were over the limit (Figure 7). Twenty-five percent of those aged between 20 and 29 thought that some people weren’t tested.

5.15 Chance of being stopped late at night. Fifty-six percent of New Zealanders surveyed thought there was a good chance of being stopped at a checkpoint if driving late at night (see Figure 6). Twenty-eight percent said they disagreed that there was a good chance of being stopped. The remaining 16 percent said they were neutral or didn’t know. Similar responses were received from men and women, and across all age groups.

5.16 People who said they’d driven while slightly intoxicated were no less likely to think they’d be stopped late at night than anyone else. Fifty-eight percent of people who had driven after drinking agreed they were likely to be stopped at a checkpoint, compared to 54 percent of other people.

5.17 People living on the West Coast were least likely to think they would be stopped at a checkpoint if driving late at night. Only just over a third (36 percent) of Coasters said there was a good chance of being stopped. Well under half of the people living in Northland, Southland and Manawatu/ Whanganui thought they were likely to be stopped (43 percent, 40 percent and 41 percent respectively).

5.18 Chance of being stopped, by driving situation. More than half of New Zealanders (59 percent) would expect to be stopped and tested if they were drink-driving in a large city. A further 23 percent rated the chance as "fifty-fifty".

5.19 Just over a third (38 percent) thought there was a high chance of being stopped and tested if they were drink-driving on a major highway. 39% of people said it was "very" or "fairly" unlikely that a drink-driver would be stopped on a major highway.

5.20 Only a quarter (25 percent) thought they would be stopped if they were drink-driving in a small town, and just one in seven (14 percent) would expect to be stopped if they were drink-driving on a rural road. Sixty-nine percent (67 percent of rural dwellers) thought it very or fairly unlikely that they would be stopped if drink-driving on a rural road.

5.21 Chance of being stopped, by time of day. Over the last decade there has been a gradual increase in awareness of compulsory breath testing during the evening and overnight. In particular there has been an increasing awareness in recent years of the chance of being caught after midnight (see Figure 8).

Graph showing percentage of people who rate the chance of being stopped and tested if drink driving

5.22 Fifty-seven percent of New Zealanders said they would expect to be stopped and breath-tested if they were drink-driving between 10pm and midnight. Forty percent said they would expect to be stopped if they drank and drove between 6pm and 10pm.

5.23 Just under half (47 percent) would expect to be caught if they were drink-driving between midnight and 2am, and just under a third (31 percent) thought they would be caught if drinking and driving between 2am and 8am. New Zealanders are continuing to become more aware of enforcement during these after-midnight hours.

5.24 Only 12 percent said that there would be a good chance of being caught if they were drink-driving in the daytime (8am – 6pm). This has changed little in the last 9 years.

Speed and speed enforcement

5.25 The majority of New Zealanders recognise the risks of speeding and support enforcement of the speed limit. Effort is required to ensure that the positive changes in attitude over the last decade are maintained.



5.26 Risk of crash. One in six New Zealanders (16 percent) agreed with the statement "there is not much chance of an accident when speeding if you are careful". This measure improved between 1995 and 2002, but since then has fluctuated in the 15 to 18 percent range (Figure 10).

5.27 Young males aged 15 to 24 were most likely to think speeding wasn’t dangerous as long as they were careful (25 percent). Failing to acknowledge the risk was also more common among Northland and Auckland residents (21 percent and 23 percent respectively) and among people who had driven while slightly intoxicated (24 percent).

5.28 Driving fast. Well over a third (39 percent) of drivers said that they enjoyed driving fast on the open road. This has fluctuated in the late thirties for the last decade (Figure 10).

5.29 Overall, 42 percent of males and 36 percent of females said they liked driving fast on the open road. Young drivers were much more likely to say they liked driving fast than older ones; 55 percent of drivers aged 15 to 24 said they liked it, compared to 44 percent of those aged 25 to 39, 37 percent of those in their forties and fifties, and 30 percent of those aged 60 and over.

5.30 More than half (53 percent) of male drivers aged 15-24 said that they liked driving fast. People who admitted driving while intoxicated were also more likely than others to say they liked driving fast (52 percent compared to 30 percent of other drivers).

5.31 Effectiveness of enforcement. Support for speed enforcement remains high. Three quarters (76 percent) of New Zealanders agreed with the statement "enforcing the speed limit helps to lower the road toll"; 15 percent disagreed and 10 percent said they were neutral on this issue. This has changed little since 1995 (Figure 9). This measure was similar across both genders and all age groups.

5.32 Risk of being caught. Awareness of speed enforcement increased markedly between 2000 and 2004, but has been static in recent years. Twenty-nine percent of New Zealanders agreed with the statement "the risk of being caught speeding is small", the same percentage as in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (Figure 10). People under 20 and those aged 60-plus were most likely to say that "the risk of being caught speeding is small" (33 percent and 35 percent respectively agreed with the statement.

5.33 Speed limits. As in recent years, the great majority of New Zealanders (86 percent) said that speed limits on the roads they normally use are about right. Five percent said they were too high and eight percent that they were too low.

5.34 Open road speed limit. When people were asked directly whether the 100 km/h speed limit should be raised, lowered or kept as it is, 78 percent said they wanted it kept as it is and 4 percent thought it should be lowered. The minority saying that the "100 km/h limit should be raised" decreased from 25 percent in 1995 to 14 percent in 2009, but has increased again slightly to 18 percent in 2010.

5.35 Not surprisingly, people who had received speeding tickets were most likely to say the speed limit should be raised. Just under a third (31 percent) of people who’d received a speeding ticket thought the 100km/h limit should be raised.

5.36 Urban speed limit. Support for retaining the current 50 km/h speed limit was similarly strong. Eighty-three percent of New Zealanders said that the urban 50km/h speed limit should be retained and a further 5 percent that it should be lowered. Since these questions were first asked in 1995, there has been in a gradual decline in support for raising the urban speed limit, from 21 percent in 1995 to 11 percent in 2010.

5.37 Definition of speeding. Participants were asked "On the open road, what speed do you consider to be speeding?". Fifty-two percent named speeds of 110 km/h or less as "speeding". A further 11 percent named speeds of 111 - 115 km/h. The mean speed named was 113.5 km/h. This may reflect widespread knowledge of the 10 km/h enforcement tolerance applied by police in practice. Young men aged 15 to 24, and those who admitted to driving while intoxicated, were more likely than other groups to name high speeds.

5.38 Automatic licence suspension for speeding. As in earlier years, most New Zealanders found extremely high speeds unacceptable. From 16 January 2006, the threshold for automatic licence suspension became 40 km/h over the posted permanent speed limit, or 140 km/h on the open road. In 2009, automatic loss of licence at 140 km/h was described as "fair" or "very fair" by 77 percent of New Zealanders. This has gradually increased over the last decade from 68 percent in 1999. Only nine percent said automatic loss of licence at 140 km/h would be unfair (the remainder were neutral or said they didn’t know).

5.39 Just over half (51 percent) said automatic licence loss would be fair at 130 km/h on the open road.

5.40 The question asked how fair or unfair it would be for a driver to "automatically lose their licence". The actual penalty is licence suspension for 28 days. It is possible that the "loss of licence" referred to in the question sounds harsher than a 28-day suspension, so the responses may in fact underestimate public support for this penalty.

5.41 Speeding in urban areas was also regarded as highly unacceptable. In 2010, 94 percent supported loss of licence for speeding at 90 km/h in a 50km/h zone. This has gradually increased from 88 percent in 1999. Almost four fifths (79 percent) supported automatic loss of licence at 80 km/h, and 46 percent were in favour of automatic licence loss at 70 km/h in a 50 km/h zone.

5.42 Repeat offending. Sixty-eight percent of New Zealanders said that it would be fair or very fair for three speeding tickets in a year to result in automatic loss of licence. This is similar to the levels of the last few years (see Figure 9). Fifteen percent said automatic licence loss for three tickets in a year would be unfair or very unfair, and 16 percent were neutral on this issue or said they didn’t know.

5.43 Self-reported speeding infringements. Eighteen percent of drivers reported receiving at least one speeding ticket in the previous year. Nineteen percent of male drivers and 17 percent of female drivers reported receiving a speeding ticket in the year preceding the survey. Not surprisingly, drivers who said they liked driving fast were more likely to have had a speeding ticket (24 percent) than those who disliked driving fast (13 percent). Twenty-six percent of people who had driven while intoxicated had received a speeding ticket, compared to 16 percent of people who didn’t report any drink-driving.

5.44 Thirty percent of drivers aged between 30 and 39 had received a speeding ticket.

5.45 Chance of receiving a ticket. New Zealanders now expect to be caught if they speed past a speed camera (see section 6, Speed cameras), but are less convinced that they’ll be stopped if they’re passing a police officer without a camera.

5.46 Although more than two thirds (71 percent) of New Zealanders now believe they would be likely to receive a ticket if they drove past a police officer in light traffic at 120 km/h, less than half (41 percent) would expect a ticket at 115 km/h. (Figure 11). This is interesting given widespread awareness that the police commonly apply a 10 km/h speed tolerance on the open road. In contrast, 74 percent said they would be likely to get a ticket if they drove past a speed camera at 115 km/h (see Figure 12).

Graph showing percentage of people who think there is a high or very high perceived chance of receiving a ticket if passing a police officer (without a camera) at various speeds

Graph showing percentage of people who perceive there is a high or very high chance of receiving a ticket if driving at 115km/h past a speed camera or police officer without a camera

5.47 Around a quarter (23 percent) said there was a low or very low chance of receiving a ticket if they drove past a police officer at 115 km/h.

5.48 New Zealanders’ expectation of receiving a ticket if speeding past a police officer at speeds between 110 km/h and 125 km/h has not changed significantly in the last year, though it has increased over the last decade.

6 Speed cameras



6.1 Effectiveness of speed cameras. The majority of New Zealand adults (64 percent) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Using speed cameras helps lower the road toll". Twenty-two percent said speed cameras don’t help to lower the road toll and 14 percent were neutral on this issue. This hasn’t changed much over the last decade (Figure 13).

6.2 Cameras operated fairly. Two thirds of New Zealanders (67 percent) thought that the way speed cameras are being operated is fair.

6.3 Chance of receiving a ticket. Three out of four New Zealanders (74 percent) said they would expect to get a ticket if they passed a speed camera on the open road at 115 km/h. This has decreased from 79 percent in 2009 (see Figure 14).

Graph showing percentage of people who perceive the chance of receiving a ticket if passing a speed camera at various speeds as high or very high

6.4 More than 90 percent thought they would be likely or very likely to receive a ticket if they drove past a camera at speeds of 120 km/h or higher (compared to only 71 percent who thought they’d receive a ticket if they drove past a police officer at 120 km/h).

6.5 Forty percent would expect to receive a ticket if they passed a speed camera at 110 km/h.

6.6 Awareness of cameras. More than a third (35 percent) of New Zealanders said that they often saw speed cameras on their usual roads (see Figure 13). This has been fairly static over the last decade. Those least likely to say they often saw speed cameras were people living in Southland (14 percent), Nelson/ Marlborough/ Tasman (20 percent), and Taranaki (21 percent).

6.7 Hidden cameras. Participants were asked "Do you support or oppose the use of hidden speed cameras to catch speeding drivers?". As in earlier years, the majority of New Zealanders supported the use of hidden cameras. Sixty-four percent of New Zealanders said they supported or strongly supported the use of hidden cameras, while 19 percent were opposed or strongly opposed to their use.

7 General enforcement

7.1 General traffic enforcement. Forty-one percent of New Zealanders thought that a driver who broke a traffic law (other than drink-driving or speeding) was likely to be stopped by the police. This is the highest proportion since the question was first asked in 1997 (Figure 1).

Graph showing percentage of respondents saying the perceived chance of being stopped by police if breaking a traffic law other than drink-driving or speeding is very or fairly likely

7.2 Vehicle impoundment. A large majority of New Zealanders (92 percent) supported vehicle impoundment for disqualified or repeated unlicensed driving. Support for impoundment has gradually increased from 84 percent when first asked in 1998.

7.3 Unmarked police vehicles for traffic enforcement. Several questions about the use of unmarked vehicles (other than speed camera vehicles), to detect offending on the roads, were asked for the first time in 2004. Some questions were altered in 2007.

7.4 In 2010, 94 percent of New Zealanders were aware that police use a fleet of unmarked vehicles to detect traffic offending. Awareness was high across all age groups and throughout NZ.

7.5 Those who were aware of the unmarked cars were asked to list all of the ways they’d become aware of them. Most people had seen an officer in an unmarked car (36 percent) and/or had seen someone else being ticketed (33 percent). Twenty-five percent had heard about the cars from someone else, nine percent mentioned that they’d heard about the cars through the media, and six percent had personally received a ticket from an officer in an unmarked car. Nine percent said they recognised the model, licence plates, aerial or other features of the cars.

7.6 Most people thought that unmarked cars were an effective and fair road safety measure. More than two thirds (70 percent) of those who were aware of unmarked cars said the use of unmarked cars to detect traffic offending was "very effective" or "quite effective" in helping to reduce the road toll. Just under a quarter (22 percent) thought the use of unmarked cars was not very effective and only four percent said they had no effect. (The remaining four percent said they didn’t know).

7.7 When asked how fair or unfair it would be for a driver to have his or her traffic offending detected by an unmarked police car, 85 percent of those who were aware of the use of unmarked cars said that this would be "fair" or "very fair". Only five percent said it would be "unfair" or "very unfair". The remaining 10 percent said they were neutral on this issue. These results have changed very little over the last three years.

8 Safety belts and child restraints


8.1 Perceptions relating to safety belts were very similar to those observed in previous years.



8.2 Effectiveness of safety belts. As in previous years, almost all New Zealanders (95 percent) thought that safety belts were effective in reducing the road toll. Two thirds (66 percent) said they were very effective and 30 percent said they were quite effective.

8.3 Effectiveness of safety belt enforcement. Eighty-eight percent of New Zealanders agreed that enforcing the use of safety belts helps to lower the road toll. This has remained fairly constant at this high level over the last decade. Younger people were somewhat less likely to support safety belt enforcement, with 80 percent saying that safety belt enforcement helps to lower the road toll.

8.4 Enforcement of adult safety belt use. Forty-one percent of New Zealanders thought it ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ that they would be caught if they drove without wearing a safety belt. This has remained stable at 36-40 percent since 2004 after a significant improvement from earlier years (see Figure 16).

8.5 If travelling as a front-seat passenger without a safety belt, 40 percent would expect to be stopped by Police. For rear seat passengers, only 17 percent said it was likely or very likely that they would be stopped if they travelled unbelted in the rear seat.

Graph showing percentage of respondents who think there is a chance that an adult will be caught if not wearing a seatbelt while driving, as a frontseat passenger or a backseat passenger

8.6 Child restraint enforcement. The general perception is that child restraint use is more rigorously enforced than adult safety belt use. Sixty percent of the respondents said there was a high chance of being stopped if travelling with an unrestrained child in the front seat, but only 37 percent said this would be the case if the child was in the back seat. These have both increased since 2008 and 2009.

Graph showing percentage of respondents who think the chance of being stopped if travelling with an unrestrained child in the front seat or back seat is likely or very likely

8.7 Penalties. A third of New Zealanders (34 percent) said that the penalties for not wearing a safety belt were not very severe even if you were caught.

9 Roading

9.1 Importance of roading improvements. Respondents were asked how important improving road engineering and design is for road safety. Two thirds (68 percent) said that improving road engineering and design would be "very important" for road safety, and a further 27 percent said it would be "fairly important". The number of people who rated roading improvements as "very" or "fairly" important for road safety has remained at a very high level since the question was first asked in 2002.


[1] Answers to this and other questions may not add to 100 percent due to rounding and in some cases because a small number of people answered ‘Don’t know’.


[2] Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's Bureau of Alcohol Education, based on formula developed by National Highway Traffic Administration 1994. (Note that 1 US standard drink is approximately 1.4 NZ standard drinks). www.lcb.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/alcohol___the_law/17511/alcohol_impairment_chart/611972(external link) accessed 28/7/10.