Greg Murphy says road safety isn't taken seriously in New
Zealand. Photo / Dean Purcell
Champion motorsport ace Greg Murphy says New Zealanders
are "terrible" drivers and the country has a culture where road
safety isn't taken seriously.
The four-time Bathurst 1000 winner is calling for a law
change to make professional driver training compulsory for
anyone trying to get a licence - a move he says will save the
lives of more New Zealanders.
"We are 100 per cent not taking it seriously enough. Knowing
that we could have a lot more young Kiwis, and New Zealanders
as a whole, still with us if we just changed a few simple
things - it's really quite ridiculous," Murphy told the
"This could change lives and I find it disturbing we haven't
changed things earlier and saved people going through the
pain and damage of losing someone they love on the road," he
"We need to make some changes sooner rather than later."
Changes in 2011 that raised the minimum driving age from 15
to 16 and applied a zero-alcohol tolerance to all drivers
under 20 had started addressing some issues, but more were
When testing was restructured in 2012 to make it harder to
obtain a restricted licence, the concept of professional
driver training was left off the safety checklist, he said.
Transport Authority figures for that year showed 61 Kiwis
aged from 15 to 24 were killed on roads here, and a further
3378 were seriously injured.
"The issue here is driver training," Murphy said.
"Drivers these days, and their parents, came up in
generations where there was no compulsory training and there
Murphy, who is also the face of the Motor Trade Association's
in-school safety programme, wants new drivers to have the
skills to cope with New Zealand's unique roading conditions.
"The training side of things is absolutely critical. I can
guarantee that if people had the skills and training to start
with, we would be in a much better situation, where a lot of
these crashes that happen would have a chance of not even
He said safety features of cars compensated for human error
and increased the chance of survival, but nothing compensated
for a lack of knowledge and skills.
"The level of skills in New Zealand is just terrible, the
culture that we have got, and as long as there is no skills
training we are going to stay very bad drivers.
"If people had a little bit more understanding of what they
were doing and the risks associated with what they were doing
and had the training, they wouldn't make those errors."
Waikato University transport psychologist Dr Robert Isler
said raising the driver age to 18 could also have a positive
impact on road safety.
"We have done lots of research on young people and I think 16
is still too young.
"We have proof that the licensing should be made harder and
more challenging so that people train more and have more
supervised driving from their parents and can take up
professional training as well - there should be more focus on
coaching," Dr Isler said.
New Zealand was one of the worst-performing countries in the
developed world when it came to young people dying on the
roads, he said.
Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse said the
Government's changes, part of its Safer Journeys 10-year road
safety strategy, were working and he did not see a need to
raise the minimum driving age or implement compulsory
"Four years in, and we're seeing some positive results," he
said. "2013 was the lowest road toll in 60 years. The number
of 16- to 24-year-olds seriously injured on our roads in 2013
was 37 per cent lower than four years ago.
"This downward trend is pleasing to see, but there are still
too many young people - particularly young men - involved in
serious crashes, and this age group will continue to be a
focus for the Government."
- Morgan Tait of the New Zealand Herald