Lonely Planet Writer

New Zealand road safety campaign targets captive audience

When it comes to getting your message across, there’s nothing like a captive audience…at least that’s the theory behind the road safety posters springing up in toilets across New Zealand.

Road safety campaign in New Zealand's public toilets.
Road safety campaign in New Zealand’s public toilets. Image by studio tdes / CC BY 2.0

The signs have been placed in around 60 toilets in the South Canterbury region and are aimed at foreign travellers, with text translated into five languages including Chinese, Japanese and Filipino. They include road safety tips (including the all-important reminder that vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road) and maps depicting the location of all road accidents since 2011.

The brains behind the concept, South Canterbury Road Safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude, came up with the idea when he realised toilets provide a captive audience. He told Stuff.co.nz that he hopes travellers will read over the safety tips during that “30 seconds when there’s nothing to do”.

A road running through the Lindis Pass, New Zealand.
A road running through the Lindis Pass, New Zealand. Image by Ghislain Mary / CC BY-SA 2.0

The campaign targeting foreign travellers stems from an increase in the number of travellers involved in road accidents in the South Canterbury region. Statistics from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) indicate travellers were involved in 8% of the 625 accidents resulting in injuries in the region since 2011.

Mr Naude attributes the high proportion of travellers involved in crashes to their assumption that drives in New Zealand are quick and easy. He noted the 500km drive between Christchurch and Queenstown looks simple on a map, but in reality proves to be much more difficult. NZTA statistics support this, with 28% of crashes the result of drivers losing control or colliding with another vehicles on a bend in the road.

Though highlighting road crashes isn’t necessarily a popular choice, Mr Naude said locals were generally supportive of the safety campaign, which cost just a few thousand dollars to implement and could significantly improve road safety in the area.