A unique perspective about road safety
Our Road Safety team work hard to reduce the dangers Kiwi motorists face on our roads. This team applies their skills, passion and experience to the link between the people that drive vehicles and the infrastructure their vehicles traverse. This gives them a unique perspective about road safety.
Here are some of their reflections, observations and memories from their time engineering safer roads.
"Sometimes it's you who makes a mistake, sometimes it's another road user. When those mistakes happen, the results can literally change or end someone's life."
"When doing my undergraduate degree, I recall one of my lecturers saying that engineers had the potential to do more for the common good (or harm) of society than virtually any other profession. I have a long held interest in transport engineering; road safety is a good way of combining my transport engineering interest with a desire to maximise the common good that I deliver through my work.
I also worked for about 10 years as a volunteer ambulance officer. As a reality check on why road safety is an important part of my job, there’s nothing quite like climbing into a crashed vehicle and confirming someone is dead or of being the last person to talk to someone who is seriously injured in a crash and subsequently dies.
Road safety is possibly the only professional activity in which WSP Opus staff are involved where the focus of our day to day work is using our technical skills to save people’s lives.
From a road user's perspective, it doesn't matter how good a driver you are (or think you are), everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Without getting paranoid about it, work on the assumption that every other road user is insufferably stupid and is not going to make any allowances for you."
"While most of the work I do is not measurable, knowing people can get on with their lives and not notice what we are doing is a win."
"I'm a Senior Road Safety Advisor and work across the NZTA Network Outcomes Contract providing strategic road safety advice. I also work closely with the NZ Transport Agency in the walking and cycling space, I have written policy documents, maintenance and design guidelines, and currently working with them on how to best incorporate cycling project maintenance.
From the beginning of my career, I was always involved in doing road safety specific tasks. Over the years I was involved in a range of other civil engineering disciplines but I always found myself coming back to road safety and becoming increasingly specialised. I find the constant challenge of problem solving and the need to find solutions that deliver good road safety outcomes while balancing lots of different needs.
I love that everyday (most days) I am having conversations and undertaking work that can make differences to how people can safely interact with the transport system. While most of the work I do is not measurable, knowing that people can just get on with their lives and not notice what we are doing is a win."
"...we live in a country where we are not afraid to trial new approaches with road safety tools such as non-standard signs and markings"
"I started off working for a government organisation which specialised in all aspects of road safety. I not only enjoyed the type of work, but also the various people who I worked with (such as the police). Later on in my career, I moved to WSP Opus and undertook the work from a different perspective….that is rather than reviewing projects and outcomes from a higher level, I actually had to do the work!
I enjoy being involved in safety projects, because even small changes can make a huge difference. I enjoy that we have a lot more data systems in place that make analysis easier and provide a significant contribution to identifying actual and predicted risk making it a more targeted approach. I also like that fact that we live in a country where we are not afraid to trial new approaches with road safety tools such as non-standard signs and markings."
" ...people often behave in unexpected ways, but there are often underlying patterns in the organised chaos"
"I decided to focus my skills and profession on Road Safety for a combination of factors, including friends who have died on our roads, an inspirational mentor, and the passionate people I get to work with in this space.
The thing I enjoy most about my job is uncovering new behavioural insights, as people often behave in unexpected ways, but there are often underlying patterns in the organised chaos. Also, finding the small changes that can have large positive impacts on reducing harm. The devil is often in the detail when it comes to good design and effective behaviour change.
Putting innovation into improving safety means you need to ground your ideas on robust principles and data, brew the ideas with people from different disciplines, and be bold and tenacious. Some of these steps are difficult and often good knowledge takes a while before we see it put into practice.
My biggest achievement outside of work has been gaining new insights from my 15-month-old boy Ash, who is now crash testing different environments for safety, with mixed results."
"I like the sense of purpose that my role gives me, the feeling of contributing to the safety of the motoring public."
"In my formative years as an engineer, I worked as a structures inspector and designer, as well as a roading contract manager. Although I really enjoyed this experience what I wanted was a career that would make a more impactful contribution to people’s lives on a greater level and give me the opportunity to work across multiple fields to achieve this.
As a road safety engineer I have had to attend “Hot Scene” Fatal Crash investigations. These investigations required me to investigate whether there are any road related contributing factors to a crash as soon as possible after the crash had occurred so that we could investigate at the same conditions. The one that is imprinted on my memory was a crash on a rural road where some young kids were riding on the back deck of a flat deck truck. The truck veered and one of the back passengers came off and was killed. When I arrived the Police had set up the inner cordon and the wider whanau of the deceased boy were there. Seeing the grief on the faces of the immediate family, the wider community and the emergency services struck home the extent of the impact that these crashes have.
Unfortunately there are many examples of fatal crashes that I have been involved with investigating."