This year will mark the four-year anniversary of the Street Smart driver training programme, headed by Hayden Dickason and often lobbied by Kiwi motorsport legend and safety advocate Greg Murphy.
Speaking at this week’s announcement that the programme would be partnering with Skoda New Zealand, NZ Autocar asked the four-time Bathurst 1000 winner whether the conversation with ministers and officials has evolved over the years of work. “No,” was his response.
Murphy confirmed that he will be meeting with Minister of Transport Michael Wood in the coming weeks; Wood having taken over the role in November 2020. Representatives from the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency would also be coming out to a training event for the first time at the end of the month. But these developments come after a long slog.
“I was given some positivity in 2019 when Julie Anne Genter came to Street Smart and saw the programme, she was associate minister at the time,” Murphy said.
“That was really positive, and I believe with that and a lot of submissions from a lot of people that believe what needs to be done […] she added to the Road to Zero strategy document to focus on driver training.
“Unfortunately, nothing’s happened since then.”
Murphy and a host of other safety advocates and motoring experts have lobbied for change to the national licensing structure for a long time, arguing that overseas examples show that a more practical testing structure will have a greater impact on minimising local road toll than current strategies.
“Our road toll, our road crash statistics in New Zealand are really disgusting. They really are something we have looked at and talked about over many years. And effectively as a country we have done very little to improve the situation,” he said.
“Last year, with Covid-19, we still had a road toll that we really should be ashamed of. It was disturbing to still see people being killed on our roads during four weeks of complete lockdown, and I think that says it all. There’s a lot of work to do.”
The former Supercars driver and full-time broadcaster also spoke candidly to the media about the government’s focus on advocating about getting young drivers to invest in safer cars — noting that the young people in danger of buying unsafe older vehicles aren’t in a position to spend more money on more expensive wheels regardless.
“The responsibility has been put on communities to actually support youth to get their driver’s licenses because they don’t have it at home. They want to get a job, they want to move out of the cycle, but they don’t have anyone to actually help them do that and they don’t have the money to sit the license test,” he said.
“You want to be able to go to [communities] and say ‘hey, we’ve got a day for you to pick 30 [people] to bring along. That’s the goal, we want to be able to do that.”
Dickason noted at the Skoda announcement event that 93 per cent of Street Smart participants reported back that the programme had a good or high impact on the way they drive. 81 per cent have not had a crash since taking part. 83 per cent of participants went on to recommend the course to others, and 89 per cent said it raised their level of awareness behind the wheel.