WELLINGTON - A senior transport official announced an extension of the New Zealand government’s Safety Boost Program on Sunday to prevent deaths and serious injuries on rural roads.

The New Zealand Transport Agency will be investing 20 million NZ dollars (13.7 million U.S. dollars) to upgrade 670 km of rural state highways across Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui of the North Island and the West Coast of the South Island this year, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

“The Boost Program will target 11 rural state highways that might not have high levels of traffic but still have plenty of risks like sharp corners and narrow stretches,”

said Genter.

The program includes simple safety upgrades that can be installed quickly over the summer period, such as rumble strips, roadside safety barriers in high-risk locations, shoulder widening and improved signage, she said.

“All drivers make mistakes from time to time. Safety improvements like these stop simple mistakes turning into tragedies,” Genter added.

Rumble strips can reduce fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42 percent. Shoulder widening at high risk sights can reduce serious crashes by up to 35 percent, statistics showed.

The original Safety Boost Program made improvements like these in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Otago and Southland. It delivered almost 2,000 km of rumble strips, 30 km of road safety barriers in higher risk areas, and intersection speed zones at high-risk rural intersections, the official said.

This summer’s Safety Boost is part of the 1.4-billion-NZ dollar Safe Network Program, a collaborative, prioritized program of proven safety improvements on high risk routes across New Zealand, she added.