Opinion: After years of effort and billions of dollars of government money, hundreds of people are still dying on our roads every year.

It’s clear that what we’ve tried hasn’t completely solved the issue. That’s why we should do nothing at all about road safety.

Why is there so much fuss about road deaths, when 26 people are dying of cancer every day? Why are the Government, the media and so-called road safety experts so intent on fear-mongering?

Sure, 188 people have died on our roads so far this year. But how many of them died from a car crash, rather than simply in one? There may be easily accessible statistics to answer this question, but I’m not looking.

Plus, some of those killed in car accidents are older people who might have died of something else in the next few years anyway. Their lives just don’t matter as much.

When children or the disabled are tragically killed in car accidents, that’s a real shame. But can we really ask the entire country to wear seatbelts, drive sober and stop at red lights just to protect a few vulnerable people? The reality is the world is never 100 percent safe. The most vulnerable among us just shouldn’t get in cars if they’re so worried about road safety.

The lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 reduced the number of road deaths significantly, but they failed to eliminate them. If lockdowns didn’t work, why should we bother to do anything else on road safety?

My critics will say that car accidents are about more than deaths. They’ll say some people who get into car accidents are left with long-term debilitating conditions

The truth is the vast majority of car accidents are mild, with more than a 99 percent survival rate. And most people who leave their homes in a vehicle won’t even get into an accident.

Despite this, the government mandates that we wear seatbelts not just in taxis and planes, but even in our own private vehicles. Is that really proportionate to the risk?

Sure, it doesn’t take much effort and the experts say it reduces the likelihood of being hurt in a car crash, but why should I have to do it if it inconveniences me, personally?

Of course, government overreach here goes beyond seatbelts. The ban on drunk driving is just one more example of the nanny state making our decisions for us. While the actions of one person could affect many, many others on the roads, I still inexplicably believe that road safety is a matter of individual choice, not something that requires a collective approach.

That’s why traffic lights should be optional. Those who want to slow at orange and stop at red are welcome to. But those of us who want to get back to normal should be able to choose our own traffic light setting.

Then there’s the Government’s irrational car seat rules for young children. Car seats may keep kids safer but kids hate them. They should be allowed to make their own choice about their seats, just like the rest of us.

This insane drive to zero road deaths is even worsening inflation. The millions of dollars the government has spent on Road to Zero advertising and the billions it has spent on new, safer road infrastructure like Transmission Gully are only contributing to an over-heated economy.

What makes it worse is the sense – true or not – that it’s easier on the outside. We keep hearing how carefree other countries are in their approaches to road safety.

Our 0.05 percent blood alcohol content limits are almost totalitarian, compared to the 0.08 percent limits in some popular OE destinations. Countries like Togo and Niger are even ahead of the curve with no limits whatsoever. Who wouldn’t want to live somewhere drink driving is fully legal?

It’s no wonder the young are leaving New Zealand for greener pastures.

This country needs to draw a line under the road toll and move on. Drop the ridiculous ban on drink driving that’s hobbling bars, clubs and liquor stores. Reconsider whether mandated seatbelts are really working if we’re actually still getting in car accidents. 

Instead of futile attempts to keep people safe, it’s time to learn to live with the annual road toll.

* This column is satire.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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