Road Toll

January 4th, 2007 at 10:20 am by David Farrar

The road toll continues its downwards trend of the last 15 years or so, dipping below 400 for the first time since 1963. At 387, it is 17 less than the 404 in 2005 and is the lowest since 1960 which was 374..

The number of fatal crashes was up from 340 to 346, so less multiple fatality crashes it seems.

The toll reduction is even more pleasing considering growing population and more travel. To do propoer comparisons, one should look at the toll per million kms travelled. If this isn’t available the next best indicator is the toll per 10,000 vehicles or even per 100,000 population.

The toll per 10,000 vehicles went up and down in the 1950s and 1960s and in 1973 was at 5.9 (843 deaths in total). By 1980 it was down to 3.3, up to 3,7 in 1985, back down to 3.3 in 1990 and since 1990 there has been almost all reduction with 2.5 in 1995, 1.8 in 2000 and 1.3 in 2005. So still reducing, but not as quickly as previously.

How do we compare internationally? Latest figures are from 2004 when NZ was 1.5 per 10,000 vehicles.

Australia 1.2
Canada 1.4
France 1.5
Germany 1.1
Ireland 1.7
Italy 1.3
Japan 1.0
Netherlands 0.9
South Korea 3.6
Sweden 0.9
UK 1.0
US 1.8

So still some way to go.


23 Responses to “Road Toll”

  1. Zutroy () says:

    Ok – so the death toll is coming down. That’s great, but are serious accidents coming down as well? That would be the real test of whether government policies on drink/driving, seatbelts etc have been working over time.

    It may well be that the declining road toll has more to do with the passive safety in cars – such as better belt restraints, better car construction, airbags, better fire retardant materials etc. Accidents may not be coming down, just becoming more survivable. As cars possess better technology like antilock brakes, traction control, computer controlled braking and better headlight technology, we can expect cars to get into fewer accidents too. But does that signify any success in government policy?

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  2. thehawk () says:

    There is a problem with raw numbers of deaths, particularly when the numbers are relatively small ie in the hundreds or even low thousands. If a fully loaded coach went off the road and killed its 50 passengers that would lead to a 12% rise
    in NZ road toll for the year at current levels. One crash representing 12% of the headline/politically relevant rate! Another way to look at the stats but ignored by our “road safety”
    gurus is to count such a crash as “one fatality crash” or “one vehicle fatality crash”. A head on car crash killing all 8 people is currently recorded as a toll of 8, but better recorded either as “one fatality crash” or “two vehicle fatality crash”.

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  3. Fred () says:

    The Northern Territory had no speed limit on the open road. Due to 50 deaths/year/200,000 total population, sadly 130kph is now the limit.
    Which means 140 cribbed, 90 real mph’s. Not bad.

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  4. John Boy () says:

    The comparisons are just playing with numbers. I don’t think we can compare ourselves to other countries in a really useful way as the terrain style, roads and population habits are too varied. We also need more info on accident type to establish where the real problems lie but we just get dealt nonsense (I suspect) based on what the Govt is raising most dosh from. Did I mention speeding? While less deaths is obviously better there will be a point where a reduction will simply grind to a halt and then wander about within a range. Then what slogan? Sadly, I think its really about population control and the safety aspect is an incidental side benefit. If that wasn’t the case we would be seeing much better driver training. I had to go on a defensive driving course a long time ago (due to accidents in a company car – blame wasn’t a feature in having to to go or not) and listened to an old man drone on. The company rules were satisfied but the exercise was otherwise pointless. Nothing has changed.

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  5. Camryn () says:

    1.5 per 10,000 is pretty good relative to those comparison countries, many of which have much better roads and less diversity of conditions. I feel that it indicates that our behaviour is comparable, with the slightly higher rate due to factors beyond driver control.

    Also, the diminished recent improvement rates are only if you look in absolute terms… 3.3 to 2.5 to 1.8 to 1.3 shows a fairly consistent rate of decline in terms of “approx 25% less than previous period”.

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  6. Brian (Shadowfoot) () says:

    Fatal crashes is more meaningful to the number of deaths. I wish they would start using that. A crash where one person kills a car full of people does not mean the roads are less safer than a crash where the person dies alone.

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  7. tim barclay () says:

    Instead of screaming for more and more punative road laws there should be greater investment into areas where accidents are prone. They go on and on about alcohol but that is only part of the problem – fatigue and drugs are also a factor, driver distraction (sneezing, phones and fiddling with the radio) is also there. And so on. I just get sick of the morals brigade who go on and on about drink driving. Moralising Judges do it, which I find simply tiresome.

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  8. Leopold () says:

    Must be quite exciting to drive in South Korea..

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  9. hayman () says:

    Still no credit given to better roads AND safer cars with some effect from improved medical care at roadside and swift evacuation to hospital.
    Modern cars can go faster but stop better and are able to protect occupants in all but the highest speed impacts.
    Notice too that the number of drivers appearing in court for drunk driving is increasing by about 1000 per year and is now just under 30,000 per year.

    General road safety messages seem to be more political window dressing than really useful, but targeted messages might have some impact. Its hard to tell since they dont seem to get feedback on who is listening. Its all very well for little old ladies who watch TV1 a lot being aware the faster you go the bigger the mess but they arent the ones to watch out for

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  10. vitalis () says:

    The figures show that the immigrants are really good drivers :p

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  11. Rex Widerstrom () says:

    tim barclay – one of the more sensible policies we had in NZF in “the good old days” was that all the various taxes and levies collected from road-related items be spent on roads and not gouged to top up the Consolidated Fund. Because you’re spot on – road conditions have a lot to do with it. And even when the primary cause is something else, chances are the outcome might have been better if the road was better.

    DPF – any chance of a link to the original data on which this post is based, please? Ta.

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  12. mara () says:

    I have driven countless miles around NZ and it is a complete mystery to me that there are not thousands of fatalities every year ,rather than just a few hundred.And yes,each one is a family tragedy etc.hah..fear of flying is a common enough “phobia”,but consider that air pilots are generally sober,well trained,emotionally sound enough,and have some thought of responsibility towards their passengers.Your risk of plunging to your doom is vanishingly small compared to smashing into a Kiwi traveller,pissed and driving a shonky vehicle motoring recklessly and aggressively through the countryside.

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  13. Porcupine () says:

    The lower road toll will almost entirely be due to the advertising campaign and police taking speeding, intoxication and dangerous driving seriously – leading to a change in the public’s attitude to this form of violent crime. We need to keep the pressure on and reduce it much further. And extend the advertsing campaign to other forms of violent crime.

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  14. side show bob () says:

    Well said Tim, the cops make a big deal around here about rural drivers and drinking. The last one I talked to could not understand why rural drivers did not get a taxi or bus home. Fucking dick head if I were to get a taxi to the local hotel and home again it would probably cost $150, l’m lucky, atleast my wife will take me if I want to go, some do not have that option. Rural pubs are slowly going bust, police want to stop drink driving, fair enough but these same cops have to live in the community, God help them if they ever require help from the locals.

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  15. Psycho Milt () says:

    I’m surprised car manufacturers and roading engineers don’t call LTSA and the Police on this bullshit about greater enforcement reducing the road toll. The reduction is most likely due to greatly safer vehicles (as Zutroy points out)and improved roads, ie our gratitude for the reduction can be directed to ever-underrated engineers, not our road safety bureaucrats.

    Frankly, I find the idea that people are better-behaved on the roads now than they were 30 years ago laughable – for one thing, changing people’s behaviour is harder than bureaucrats think, and for another, from my own experience I’d say driver behaviour is worse today, and involves much higher-powered vehicles. Safer vehicles and better roads, guys – that’s all it is.

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  16. Leonidas () says:

    If the government really wanted to make a difference, they should invest in real driver education, like making the licencse process longer, and more in depth. for instance, I am told by a german friend that it costs about $5k(nz) to go through their process, and one on the tasks you have to demonstrate is the ability to recover a sliding vehicle. It’s just too damn easy to get behind the wheel in this country, and I’d suspect most people just dont have the car control to avoid an accident. I’d put my hand up for more training.

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  17. Mike Wilson () says:

    The key figures should be the ACC claims data. This is a better reflection on the impact of road injuries.

    Airbags etc are reducing the fatailites but has there been the same drop in tetra and quadrapelgics?

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  18. thehawk () says:

    Hayman – where did you get the figure on number of drunk driving offences? That could be very powerful information. Is there any information on repeat drunks? Thanks thehawk

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  19. stef () says:

    Yah, Korea number 1!

    Leopold, I wouldn’t recommend driving in South Korea. I prefer to take buses on the basis that they are the biggest so you aren’t as likely to get crushed.

    The other thing to watch out for is motorcycles who see the footpath as their personal race track!

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  20. peterpanNZ () says:


    Forgive me if I misrepresent your view, but driver educatioin involves far more than teaching people how to control a sliding car.

    That is important of course but secondary to teaching people about attitude, about reading the road and other road users, about cornering correctly (wrong cornering technique often results in cars ending up on the wrong side of the road), and many other aspects of the driving experience.

    If the car is sliding you’ve already screwed things up – you need to be taught how to avoid getting in the slide in the first place.

    For so many people driving is something they do in the background while they do other tings like using the cell, putting on make-up, adjusting the hi-fi, looking at the passenger everytime they talk to them, screaming at the kids while they spin around to glare at them (or worse SHP) – yes you’ve all seen it all!

    Safe driving is as much in the head as in the hands, and no-one – but no-one should get a full license without attending a formal Advanced Driving Course (not a Defensive Driving Course). They cost about $300-400 – peanuts compared to the cost of owning and running a car. If you can’t afford one you can’t afford to drive – period.

    And the real reason our road toll is lower – the same reason it is lower around the world irrespective of police enforcement policies – safer cars and better roads. But, hey, who are we to argue against a vital revenue stream!

    (I have 38 years accident free driving record and am actively involved in motorsport – allow me some credibility on this issue please :) )

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  21. Paranormal () says:

    Interesting no-one has picked a link between the high cost of fuel over the past year = less people driving out of town = lower road toll.

    Still the police, LTNZ and Liarbour government will still take all the credit they can for something completly out of their control or understanding.

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  22. Psycho Milt () says:

    Sigh – yes, it’s all the fault of the evil Liar-bour Klarkian regime of Helengrad. The road toll was always exactly the figure it should be under National. Is there some pill you guys pop that leads you to reduce every single issue to partisan party politics, or is it more of a mental illness?

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  23. paranormal () says:

    Sigh – indeed.

    Psycho Milt you have missed the whole point of my comment. There are three entities taking credit for the lowest road toll since the sixties when in fact a major cause for the reduction was out of their control.

    Or is it just your partisan approach to attack any alternative view?

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