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 then Land Transport Safety Authority. Since 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
  • drink driving enforcement
  • speed and speed enforcement
  • speed cameras
  • general enforcement and compliance
  • safety belts and child restraints
  • roading
  • fatigue and distraction

2 Method

The fieldwork for the survey is carried out by an independent survey company, TNS New Zealand. Surveys are carried out in May and June of each year by trained interviewers who conduct face-to-face interviews in respondents’ homes.

The sample is chosen to be representative of the New Zealand adult population and includes men and women aged 15 and over from towns, cities and rural areas throughout New Zealand. In 2012, 1667 people were interviewed, 1490 of whom held drivers’ licences. Further details of the sample and methodology may be found in Appendix A.

Overview

2.1 Speed and alcohol are widely acknowledged as major road safety problems. The majority of New Zealanders recognise that drink-driving and speeding increase the chance of an accident. One in twelve people thought that the risk of an accident when drink-driving was small, and one in seven thought that the risk of an accident when speeding was small, as long as you are careful.

2.2 Enforcement: Public support for alcohol, speed and seatbelt enforcement continues to be high. 93% of New Zealand adults said they would like police efforts to enforce road safety laws increased (41%) or maintained at the current level (52%).

2.3 Three-quarters of New Zealanders said that compulsory breath testing (CBT) (78%) and speed enforcement (77%) help to lower the road toll. Support for seatbelt enforcement was even higher, with 88% agreeing that seatbelt enforcement helps lower the road toll.

2.4 Trends: Over the last year, there has been no significant change in public perceptions of the risk of being caught drink-driving, speeding or failing to wear a seatbelt (see figure below).

2.5 Individual measures that have shown significant change are discussed in the relevant sections of this report.

2.6 New Questions: In 2012, new questions were asked about the effectiveness of demerits and fines in preventing reoffending. If they were caught for a traffic offence, 81% said that a fine would be ‘very effective’ or ‘quite effective’ in stopping them reoffending and 81% said that demerit points would be ‘very effective’ or ‘quite effective’ in stopping them reoffending.

The risk of being caught... is small

Graph showing percentage of agree/strongly agree of being caught, comparing 1996 to 2012

3 General attitudes to road safety and enforcement

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

3.2 How safe is road travel in New Zealand? Eight percent of New Zealanders described road travel in this country as ‘very safe’. A further 71% described it as ‘fairly safe’; 17% described it as ‘fairly unsafe’ and 3% as ‘very unsafe’[1].  Overall, 79% described the roads as ‘very safe’ or ‘fairly safe’, the same as in 2011. 

3.3 Road safety enforcement. Overall, public support for Police enforcement remains high. Forty-one percent of New Zealanders said that Police effort to catch people breaking road safety laws should be increased further. A further 52% wanted that effort maintained at current levels. Only five percent thought Police effort should be decreased. These results are similar to those of recent years.

3.4 Penalties. In 2012, 39% of New Zealanders said that penalties for breaking road safety laws should be increased. 52% thought penalties should remain about the same as they are now, and only four percent were in favour of reducing the severity of penalties. These results are similar to those in recent years.

3.5 Advertising. 40% of New Zealand adults thought that there should be more publicity and advertising about road safety, and 55% thought the amount of publicity and advertising should remain about the same as at present. Only 4% wanted to see a reduction in publicity and advertising about road safety. These results are similar to those in recent years.

3.6 Road design and standards. 17% of New Zealanders described the design and standard of the roads they normally used as ‘very safe’. A further 69% thought that their usual roads were ‘fairly safe’. 14% 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 recent years.

3.7 Northland, Taranaki and Gisborne residents were most likely to describe the design and standards of their roads as unsafe. 31% of Northland residents, 28% of Taranaki residents and 27% of Gisborne residents described the design and standard of the roads they normally used as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ unsafe.

4 Alcohol-impaired driving

4.1 Figure 1 and Figure 2 show some key attitudinal measures related to drink-driving.

Figure 1: Attitudes to alcohol (increasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph showing attitudes to drink-driving from 1995 to 2012

Figure 2: Attitudes to alcohol (decreasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph showing percentage of agree/strongly agree attitudes to certain drink-driving situations

4.2 Risk of crash. Most people recognise that drink-driving is risky. However, 8% of New Zealanders said that ‘there is not much chance of an accident when driving after drinking if you are careful’ (see Figure 2 above). This is a decrease from a high of 10% in 2011.

4.3  People in Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Wellington were least likely to recognise the risk of drink-driving. 10% of Northlanders, 13% of Hawke’s Bay residents and 10% of Wellington residents said that there was not much chance of an accident when driving after drinking if you are careful.

4.4 Blood alcohol limit.  Sixty percent of New Zealanders favoured a lower legal blood-alcohol limit for driving. This increased significantly from 40% in 2006 to 63% in 2010. There have been no statistically significant changes since 2010 (see Figure 1).

4.5 In 2012, 41% of New Zealanders thought the limit should be lowered from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml. A further 19% wanted it lowered to zero. 32% thought the limit should be left as it is. Only 3% were in favour of raising the legal limit. (The remaining 4% said they had no opinion on the subject).

4.6 People who admitted having driven while slightly intoxicated were less likely to favour lowering the limit, but even among this group, 49% were in favour of a lower alcohol limit.

4.7 How many drinks should be allowed before driving? To further explore perceptions about the blood alcohol limit 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 3 shows the results. In 2012, 91% of women thought a woman should be allowed two or fewer drinks in the hour before driving, and 69% thought at most one drink should be allowed. 87% of men thought a man should be allowed three or fewer drinks, and 76% 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, 83%, thought drivers should be limited to two or fewer drinks during the hour. A further 6% wanted the ceiling set at 3 drinks.

4.11 More than half (58%) said that drivers should be limited to one drink (or no drinks at all) in an hour. 8% said they didn’t know. Only 2% thought drivers should be permitted more than 3 drinks in an hour before driving.

4.12 Even among people who admitted to having driven while slightly intoxicated, 83% thought the limit should be set at 2 or fewer drinks, and 92% thought the limit should be set at 3 or fewer drinks. This is higher than the proportion of people who said they thought the blood alcohol limit should be reduced (paragraph 4.4), which suggests that many people are unaware of the amount of alcohol that can be consumed within the legal limit[3].

Figure 3: Drinking before driving

Graph showing thoughts on how many drinks a man or woman should 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 (34%) said that it was hard to keep track of what they drank on social occasions, and a similar proportion (35%) said it was difficult to ‘go easy’ when drinking with friends (Figure 2). These results have shown little change over the last ten years.

4.14 Peer pressure was felt most strongly among the young. Thirty-nine percent of young people aged 15 to 24 said it was difficult to go easy and drink less than the group  and 45% said it was difficult to keep track of what they were drinking on social occasions.

4.15 Self-reported driving while ‘slightly intoxicated’. The percentage of people who said they had driven while slightly intoxicated during the 12 months before the survey has remained fairly static for a number of years (see Figure 2). In 2012, 20% of drivers (25% of male drivers) said they had driven while slightly intoxicated during the last year. (‘Slightly intoxicated’ was as self-reported by the driver).

4.16 Effectiveness of law. Fifty-nine percent of New Zealanders said that our drink-driving laws were ‘very’ or ‘quite’ effective at reducing the road toll. This is an increase from last year, and it is almost back to the levels of the early 2000s, when it varied between 60% and 66% (Figure 1).

4.17 Thirty-six percent said that the drink-driving laws were not very effective. Only 2% thought that New Zealand’s drink-driving laws had no effect on the road toll. (3% said they didn’t know).

4.18 Penalties. More than half of all those surveyed (51%) agreed with the statement ‘penalties for drinking and driving are not very severe even if you are caught’. This may reflect either an informed view that penalties are not severe or a lack of awareness of the severity of current drink-driving penalties.

4.19 People aged 40 and over were most likely to think penalties were not very severe (55%) compared to less than half (35%) of those aged 15-24.

5 Drink-driving enforcement

5.1 Figure 4 and Figure 5 show key attitudes towards drink-driving enforcement measures, including compulsory breath testing (CBT). Last year it was noted that a number of key measures had shown a small decline in safety perceptions. This decline was not continued in the 2012 survey.

Figure 4: Attitudes to drink-driving enforcement (increasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph comparing attitudes from 1995 to 2012

Figure 5: Attitudes to drink-driving enforcement (decreasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph comparing attitudes from 1995 to 2012

5.2 CBT lowers road toll. Over three quarters (78%) of New Zealanders agreed with the statement that ‘compulsory breath testing (CBT) helps to lower the road toll’. 10% disagreed with this statement. The remaining 12% said they were neutral or didn’t know. This is an increase over the 2011 level (74%). This measure has shown little net change over the last decade (see Figure 4).

5.3 Drink-driving enforcement. Just over one third (37%) of New Zealanders said that the risk of being caught drink-driving was small (see Figure 5). 44% of the people aged 60 and over thought the chance of being caught drink driving was small.

5.4 Checkpoints. Over the last three years, fewer people than in the previous 5 years have said that they ‘seldom saw checkpoints except during blitzes’ (see Figure 5). In 2012, 59% said they seldom saw checkpoints. People living in Canterbury were more likely than other region residents to say that they seldom saw a checkpoint (66%).

5.5 Fifty-one percent of drivers reported having been stopped at an alcohol checkpoint at least once during the preceding 12 months. Of people who admitted to driving while slightly intoxicated, 59% had been stopped at a checkpoint at least once in the last year.

5.6 Seventeen percent of all drivers reported that they had been stopped at a checkpoint three or more times in the last year. 28% of young males had been stopped at least three times in the last year.

5.7 Avoiding checkpoints. Two fifths of New Zealanders (40%) said that they could tell where checkpoints would be. 59% of Northland residents  and 58% of Gisborne residents thought they knew where checkpoints would be.

5.8 Just under a quarter of New Zealanders (24%) said they could often avoid checkpoints if they saw them early enough (Figure 5), and just under a quarter (24%) said they used the back streets to drive home when they might be over the limit. People living in Gisborne were more likely than others to say that checkpoints could be avoided if you saw them early enough (41%) and that they used the back streets to drive home when they might be over the limit (35%).

5.9 Compulsory screening. Fourteen percent of New Zealanders thought that some people stopped at checkpoints were not tested even when they were over the limit (Figure 5). 19% of those aged between 15 and 29 thought that some people weren’t tested, compared to 12% of those aged 30 and over.

5.10 Chance of being stopped late at night. More than half (52%) of New Zealanders thought there was a good chance of being stopped at a checkpoint if driving late at night. 30% said they disagreed that there was a good chance of being stopped. The remaining 18% said they were neutral or didn’t know.

5.11 Chance of being stopped, by driving situation.  More than half of New Zealanders (53%) would expect to be stopped and tested if they were drink-driving in a large city, a significant decrease from 58% in 2011. A further 28% rated the chance as 50-50.

5.12 Thirty-seven percent thought there was a high chance of being stopped and tested if they were drink-driving on a major highway. 30% thought they would be stopped if they were drink-driving in a small town. Fifteen percent of New Zealanders said they would expect to be stopped if they were drink-driving on a rural road. This is a significant decrease from 19% in 2011 and a return to the 2010 level.

5.13 Chance of being stopped, by time of day. Drivers perceive they are most likely to be stopped and breath-tested during the evening and early morning. 55% of New Zealanders said they would expect to be stopped and breath-tested if they were drink-driving between 10pm and midnight. 45% would expect to be caught if they were drink-driving between midnight and 2am (see Figure 4). 41% said they would expect to be stopped if they drank and drove between 6pm and 10pm. None of the changes from 2011 to 2012 are statistically significant.

5.14 Fewer people thought they would be caught if drinking and driving between 2am and 8am (31%), or during the day, though both have increased since 2000. Only 16% said that there would be a good chance of being caught if they were drink-driving in the daytime (8am – 6pm).

 

6 Speed and speed enforcement

6.1 As the results in this chapter shows, the majority of New Zealanders recognise the risks of speeding and support enforcement of the speed limit. Figure 6 and Figure 7 show trends in key speed-related measures.

Figure 6: Attitudes to speed enforcement (increasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph showing attitudes to speed enforcement comparing the years from 1995 to 2012

Figure 7: Attitudes to speed and speed enforcement (decreasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

(note that the scale differs from the previous graph)

Graph showing attitudes to speed and speed enforcement comparing the years 1995 through to 2012

6.2 Risk of crash. Fifteen percent of New Zealanders agreed with the statement ‘there is not much chance of an accident when speeding if you are careful’. Ideally no-one would agree with this statement, as it indicates a lack of understanding of the role of speed in road safety. This measure has been fluctuating in the 15% to 19% range in recent years (see Figure 7).

6.3 Young males aged 15 to 24 were most likely to think speeding wasn’t dangerous as long as they were careful (20%). Failing to acknowledge the risk was also more common among Tasman/Nelson residents (21%), among people who thought the risk of being caught speeding was small (19%) and among people who had received a speeding ticket in the previous 12 months (18%).

6.4 Driving fast. More than a third (36%) of drivers said that they enjoyed driving fast on the open road. This has fluctuated in the mid to late thirties for the last decade (see Figure 7).

6.5 Overall, 44% of males and 29% of females said they liked driving fast on the open road. Young drivers were more likely to say they liked driving fast than older ones: 55% of drivers aged 15 to 24 said they liked it, compared to 35% of those aged 25 to 39, 36% of those in their forties and fifties, and 27% of those aged 60 and over.

6.6 Almost three-quarters (73%) 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 (49% compared to 33% of other drivers).

6.7 Effectiveness of enforcement. Support for speed enforcement remains high. Three quarters (77%) of New Zealanders agreed with the statement ‘enforcing the speed limit helps to lower the road toll’; 13% disagreed and 10% said they were neutral on this issue. This has changed little since 1995 (Figure 6). This measure was similar across both genders and all age groups.

6.8 Risk of being caught. Awareness of speed enforcement increased markedly between 2000 and 2004, but has been static in recent years. 27% of New Zealanders agreed with the statement ‘the risk of being caught speeding is small’, effectively the same percentage as in the previous five years (Figure 7). People aged 60 and over were most likely to think that the risk of being caught speeding is small (36% agreed with the statement).

6.9 Speed limits. As in recent years, the great majority of New Zealanders (85%) said that speed limits on the roads they normally use are about right. 5% said they were too high and 8% that they were too low.

6.10 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% said they wanted it kept as it is and 5% thought it should be lowered. The minority saying that the “100 km/h limit should be raised” has decreased over the last fifteen years, from 28 percent in 1997 to 17 percent in 2012.

6.11 People who had received speeding tickets were most likely to say the speed limit should be raised. Almost a quarter (24%) of people who’d received a speeding ticket thought the 100km/h limit should be raised.

6.12 Urban speed limit. Support for retaining the current 50 km/h speed limit was similarly strong. 85% of New Zealanders said that the urban 50km/h speed limit should be retained and a further 7% that it should be lowered. Since these questions were first asked in 1995, there has been a gradual decline in support for raising the urban speed limit, from 21% in 1995 to 7% in 2012.

6.13 Speed limits around schools. A new question was introduced in 2011, asking respondents what they thought the speed limit around schools in urban areas should be. (Options were not given; the actual answer was recorded). Figure 8 shows the results for 2012. Almost half (47%) thought the speed limit around urban schools should be 30 km/h or less. 14% said 20 km/h or less, 33% said between 21 and 30 km/h, 46% gave answers between 31 and 40 km/h and 7% said 40-50 km/h. Less than half a percent said the limit around schools should be more than 50 km/h.

Figure 8: Speed limits around schools should be ...

Pie graph showing percentage of people surveyed of what they think the speed limit around schools should be

6.14 Definition of speeding. Participants were asked ‘On the open road, what speed do you consider to be speeding?’. 27% named speeds of 105 km/h or less and 60% named speeds of 110 km/h or less as ‘speeding’. A further 9% named speeds of 111 - 115 km/h.  This may reflect the perceived 10 km/h enforcement tolerance.

6.15 Automatic licence suspension for speeding. As in earlier years, most New Zealanders found extremely high speeds unacceptable. The threshold for automatic licence suspension is 40 km/h over the posted permanent speed limit[4], or 140 km/h on the open road. In 2012, automatic loss of licence at 140 km/h was described as ‘fair’ or ‘very fair’ by 75% of New Zealanders. This has gradually increased from 68% in 1999 to 78% in 2007 and has been fairly stable since. Only 11% said automatic loss of licence at 140 km/h would be unfair (the remainder were neutral or said they didn’t know).

6.16 Just over half (52%) said automatic licence loss would be fair at 130 km/h on the open road. This is down from the 2011 result (57%) but similar to earlier years.

6.17 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.

6.18 Speeding in urban areas was also regarded as highly unacceptable. In 2012, 93% supported loss of licence for speeding at 90 km/h in a 50km/h zone. This has gradually increased from 88% in 1999. Four fifths (80%) supported automatic loss of licence at 80 km/h, and 49% were in favour of automatic licence loss at 70 km/h in a 50 km/h zone.

6.19 Repeat offending. Sixty-six percent 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 6). 17% said automatic licence loss for three tickets in a year would be unfair or very unfair, and 17% were neutral on this issue or said they didn’t know.

6.20 Self-reported speeding infringements. Fifteen percent of both male and female drivers reported receiving at least one speeding ticket in the previous year. Not surprisingly, drivers who said they liked driving fast were more likely to have had a speeding ticket (19%) than those who disliked driving fast (11%). 20% of people who said they had driven while intoxicated had received a speeding ticket, compared to 14% of people who didn’t report any drink-driving.

6.21 Chance of receiving a ticket. The rest of this section has not been updated because of data quality issues. The 2011 results have been included for completeness.

6.22 New Zealanders expect to be caught if they speed past a speed camera (see section 7, 'Speed cameras’), but are less convinced that they’ll be stopped if they’re passing a Police officer without a camera.

6.23 Although more than two thirds (69%) of New Zealanders believe they would be likely to receive a ticket if they drove past a Police officer in light traffic at 120 km/h, fewer than half (45%) would expect a ticket at 115 km/h (Figure 9). In contrast, three-quarters (76%) said they would be likely to get a ticket if they drove past a speed camera at 115 km/h (see Figure 11).

Figure 9: Perceived chance of receiving a ticket if passing a Police officer (without a camera) at various speeds

Graph showing perception of chance of receiving a ticket if passing a police officer (no camera) at various speeds

Figure 10: Perceived chance of receiving a ticket if driving at 115 km/h past a ...

Graph showing perception of chance of receiving a ticket if driving 115km/h past a speed camera or police officer without a camera

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

6.25 More New Zealanders than in earlier years now think they are likely to receive a ticket if passing a Police officer at speeds of 110 km/h or 115 km/h (Figure 9). In 2011, nearly a quarter (24%) said there was a high or very high chance of receiving a ticket if they drove past a Police officer at 110 km/h, up from 16% in 2010 and 10% a decade ago.

7 Speed cameras

Figure 11: Attitudes to speed cameras (increasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph showing attitudes to speed cameras comparing 1995 to 2012

7.1 Effectiveness of speed cameras. Two-thirds of New Zealand adults (67%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘Using speed cameras helps lower the road toll’. 20% said speed cameras don’t help to lower the road toll and 13% were neutral on this issue. This has shown little net change over the last decade, although it has not been this high since 1998. (Figure 11).

7.2 Cameras operated fairly. Over two thirds of New Zealanders (69%) thought that the way speed cameras are being operated is fair.

7.3 Awareness of cameras. More than a third (35%) of New Zealanders said that they often saw speed cameras on their usual roads (see Figure 11). This has been fairly static over the last decade. Those least likely to say they often saw speed cameras were people living in Southland (18%), West Coast (10%), and Tasman/Nelson (15%).

7.4 Chance of receiving a ticket. The rest of this section has not been updated because of data quality issues. The 2011 results have been included for completeness.

7.5 Most New Zealanders (76%) said they would expect to get a ticket if they passed a speed camera on the open road at 115 km/h (see Figure 12).

Figure 12: Perceived chance of receiving a ticket if passing a speed camera at various speeds

Graph showing perceptions of people survyed comparing 1998 to 2011

7.6 Eighty-nine 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 69% who thought they’d receive a ticket if they drove past a police officer without a camera at 120 km/h.

7.7 Forty-five percent would expect to receive a ticket if they passed a speed camera at 110 km/h. This has increased from 40% in 2010.

8 General enforcement and compliance

8.1 General traffic enforcement. Thirty-seven 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 has increased fairly steadily up until 2010 (Figure 13). There was no statistically significant change between 2011 and 2012.

Figure 13: Perceived chance of being stopped by Police if breaking a traffic law other than drink-driving or speeding

Graph showing perceptions of people surveyed comparing years 1997 through to 2012

8.2 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.

8.3 In 2012, 94% 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.

8.4 Most people thought that unmarked cars were an effective and fair road safety measure. Almost three quarters (72%) 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. 20% thought the use of unmarked cars was not very effective and only 2% said they had no effect. (The remaining 6% said they didn’t know).

8.5 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, 89% of those who were aware of the use of unmarked cars said that this would be ‘fair’ or ‘very fair’. Only 4% said it would be ‘unfair’ or ‘very unfair’. The remaining 7% said they were neutral on this issue.

8.6 In 2012, new questions were asked about the effectiveness of demerits and fines in preventing reoffending. If they were caught for a traffic offence, 81% said that a fine would be ‘very effective’ or ‘quite effective’ in stopping them reoffending.

8.7 If they were caught for a traffic offence, 81% said that demerit points would be ‘very effective’ or ‘quite effective’ in stopping them reoffending.

9 Safety belts and child restraints

9.1 Figures 14 and 15 show key perceptions relating to safety belts and safety belt enforcement.

Figure 14: Attitudes to safety belts (increasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph showing attitudes to safety belts comparing years 1995 through to 2012

Figure 15: Attitudes to safety belts (decreasing trend reflects improvement in safety attitudes)

Graph showing attitudes to safety belts comparing years 1995 through to 2012

9.2 Effectiveness of safety belt enforcement. 88% of New Zealanders agreed that enforcing the use of safety belts helps to lower the road toll. Younger people were somewhat less likely to support safety belt enforcement, with only 75% of people aged 15-24 saying that safety belt enforcement helps to lower the road toll.

9.3 Enforcement of adult safety belt use. 40% 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 36-41% since 2004 after a significant improvement from earlier years (see Figure 14).

9.4 If travelling as a front-seat passenger without a safety belt, 38% would expect to be stopped by Police. For rear seat passengers, 18% said it was likely or very likely that they would be stopped if they travelled unbelted in the rear seat. This is a significant decrease from 21% in 2011, returning to the level of the previous few years (Figure 16).

Figure 16: Chance that an adult will be caught if not wearing a seatbelt while...

Graph showing perceptions of adult being caught not wearing a seatbelt comparing years 1995 through to 2012

9.5 Child restraint enforcement. The general perception is that child restraint use is more rigorously enforced than adult safety belt use. Fifty-six percent said there was a high chance of being stopped if travelling with an unrestrained child in the front seat, but only 34% said this would be the case if the child was in the back seat (Figure 17). Although the perception of front seat enforcement has dropped from the high result of 2010 (60%), the 2012 results are higher than in any other previous year.

Figure 17: Chance of being stopped if travelling with an unrestrained child in the...

Graph showing perception of those surveyed comparing years 1995 through to 2012

9.6 Child restraint use by under 5s. People with children were asked how their children were restrained on the last occasion that they rode with them in the car. Ninety-four percent of people with a child under five said that their child was in a child restraint (including infant and booster seats). 4% said the child was in a seatbelt and the remaining 2% said their child was unrestrained.

9.7 Restraint use by children aged 5 to 9. Parents (or other household members) whose youngest child was aged between 5 and 9, were asked ‘Last time you drove with this child in the car, was the child in a child seat, booster seat, seatbelt or none of these?’. Nearly half (47%) said the child was in a seatbelt. 42% reported that their child was in a booster seat or child harness, and 9% said their child was in a child seat. Only 2% said that the child was unrestrained.

9.8 Penalties. Just over a third of New Zealanders (37%) said that the penalties for not wearing a safety belt were not very severe even if you were caught (Figure 15).

9.9 Injury risk. In 2012, a new question was asked. 5% said that the risk of being seriously injured in a crash if you are not wearing a seatbelt is low. 91% disagreed.

10 Fatigue and distraction

10.1 Fatigue. Each year from 2007 to 2010, respondents were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement ‘Driving when you are tired increases the chance you might have an accident’. In 2010, almost everyone (98%) agreed with the statement. 58% ‘strongly agreed’ and 40% ‘agreed’. Only 1% disagreed with the statement or were neutral on the issue.

10.2 In 2011 this question was replaced with a more detailed question about experience of driving when tired. ’In the last 12 months, have you had trouble staying awake while driving…  …to or from work/ …In the course of work/  …On holiday or long trips, for example a family funeral or tangi’. (Funerals and tangi were given as examples as these may require unplanned long trips to a deadline).

10.3 In 2012, 29% indicated they had trouble staying awake while driving on holiday or long trips (‘often’, ‘occasionally’ or ‘once or twice’). The corresponding figures for to/from work and in the course of work were 10% and 8% respectively. Figure 18 shows the details.

Figure 18: In the last 12 months, have you had trouble staying awake while driving...

Graph showing percentage of people surveyed who had trouble staying awake in certain situations

10.4 Thirty-nine percent of Northland drivers and 36% of those in the Bay of Plenty region said they had had trouble staying awake on a long trip at least once or twice in the previous 12 months.

10.5 Distraction. An open ended question ‘What things do you find distracting when you are driving?’ was introduced in 2011. The top three distractions identified were children (mentioned by 29% of drivers), other road users (24%) and people outside the car (24%).

10.6 In 2012, the top three distractions identified were children (28%), people outside the car (27%), and passengers in general (22%). Other road users was fifth at 18%.

10.7 In 2012, as in 2011, the in-car distractions most commonly mentioned (other than children) were radios/ stereos/ mp3 players (19%) and passengers in general (22%).

10.8 Cell phones (including ringing cell phones and other passengers using cell phones) were mentioned by 14% of drivers, 10% mentioned texting or reading text messages and 7% mentioned hands free cell phones.

11 Roading

11.1 Importance of roading improvements. Respondents were asked how important improving road engineering and design is for road safety. 66% said that improving road engineering and design would be ‘very important’ for road safety, and a further 28% said it would be ‘fairly important’. Overall, 94% rated roading improvements as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ important for road safety.

Download the full document

Public attitudes to road safety survey 2012 summary report, including tables and sampling information (PDF, 816 kb)


1 Answers to this and other questions may not add to 100% 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.

3 Safer Journeys, page 32

4 Since 16 January 2006; previously 50 km/h over the speed limit.