Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Party like it’s Nineteen Fifty Two!!

Party like it’s Nineteen Fifty Two!!



Superintendent Paula Rose, the public face of road safety policing in this country, reported that the road toll for last year (2011) was the lowest on record since 1952. Certainly, 284 fatalities is a remarkable feat when compared to the 800+ that was killed in just one year alone in the decade of the 1970s.




Even more remarkable when the population was almost half what it is now, and with a lower vehicle-fleet on the roads,


About now, you might be wondering what this piece has to do with politics.

It’s quite simple.

The drop in road crashes, fatalities, and demands on our hospital services was not a natural occurrence that happened spontaneously.

The lowest road toll since 1952 – despite a steady increase in population, vehicle fleet, roads, and social mobility– happened because society and successive governments took decisive measures to achieve certain objectives.

Through a mix of advertising campaigns; tough legislation; proactive policing; and measures that extended into every aspect of our lives, work, recreational pursuits, etc – society acted collectively to meet desired outcomes.

The free market; individualism; neo-liberal ideology had zero part to play in reducing the road toll from 800+ in the 1970s to 284, last year. If anything, laws that were enforced regarding,

  • reducing drink-driving
  • wearing seat belts
  • reducing speed
  • outlawing cellphone usage whilst driving
  • toughening up on vehicle WoF safety
  • etc

… all played a part in ensuring that 500 people are alive today that – had the road toll not changed – would be dead and in the ground, or scattered ashes, last year. This is where the Cult of the Individual and the Free Market falls down badly. Not with just road safety – but the needs of society as a whole. Those who decry the collective action taken to reduce the road toll as “Nanny Statism” might care to reflect that they themselves could have ended up as a statistic in a walnut coffin.



Instead, the collective action of governments and community action has kept them alive.

The amazing reduction of the road toll is a vivid example of what  society can achieve when it works together, for the common good.

The enacting of laws; diligent policing; ubiquitous advertising campaigns; and communities that had had enough of losing loved ones to an endless series of horrific crashes – achieved a goal of saving lives. It was (and still is!) an incredibly complex programme – but determination from government; enforcement agencies; and communities working  in unison made it happen.

Imagine if we, as a nation, and starting with good leadership from the community, determined that our goals for the next few years would be;

  • eliminating poverty
  • creating jobs
  • reducing the wealth-gap
  • ensuring a healthy environment for our children

In a previous Blog piece entitled New Year’s Wish List for 2012, I outlined just such goals. A correspondent, Debbie -bless her heart – asked,

However, what are the chances?”

I think the chances are about the same as the magnificent achievement that Superindentant Paula Rose was congratulating us for.

There is no reason on Earth why the four goals above cannot be made into reality.

The benefits would be as positive as reducing the road toll and our country would truly be the envy of the world.

What are the chances, Mr Key? Mr Shearer?

And will you rely on the free market to do it? Because as sure as evolution made little green apples – it wasn’t the free market that saved 500+ people from the grave last year.





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  1. Tom Sawyer
    2 January 2012 at 12:13 am

    Yeah good luck with that Frank. Key hasn’t the balls to do for poverty what the country did for reducing the road toll. He’s here to make the rich richer, and end of story.

    As far as I can tell things are going to get worse,and poverty will increase. And more people will move to Australia. At the next election the dozey buggers who voted for Key will do so again and nothing will change.

    Can’t wait to get the hell out of here come July.

  2. 2 January 2012 at 9:36 am

    “At the next election the dozey buggers who voted for Key will do so again and nothing will change.”

    Nah, surely not…?

    In which case, we’d probably be following you.

  3. Alastair
    2 January 2012 at 9:46 am

    I disagree with this piece, Frank. Despite the police wanting to pat themselves on the back, I believe that the single biggest factor in the reduction of the road toll is safer vehicles. Those safer vehicles exist as a result of vehicle manufacturers displaying corporate responsibility and/or responding to the demands of the market.

    • 2 January 2012 at 10:05 am

      That is a factor I had forgotten to include, Alastair. Definitely safer vehicles and safer (in some areas) roads. At the same time, vehicle fleets and population have risen as well and the drop in fatalities can’t be attributed just to safer vehicles as not everyone has up-to-date vehicles.

  4. Peter Martin
    2 January 2012 at 4:15 pm

    ‘Those safer vehicles exist as a result of vehicle manufacturers displaying corporate responsibility’

    Well Ralph Nader made his name in the pursuit of automotive safety.His work was responsible for automobile safety shifting from the consumer to the manufacturer and was backed by legislation. Similar legislation like the wearing of seatbelts has compounded and entrenched it.
    I think modern medicine in no small part also plays a part in out survival on the roads.

  5. Andrew R
    3 January 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Do safer vehicles equal less deaths but greater medical costs for crash survivors?

    • 3 January 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Interesting question, Andrew. Without research, my gut-feeling is that it would be likely. I base that on the increasing cost of Vote: Health as our life expectancy also increases…

      And not just medical intervention costs – but rehabilitation costs, such as ACC.

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