Road and water deaths down

The 2008 road toll was 359, a 52 year low. The previous low in 1956 was at a time when there were one fifth the number of cars.

The Herald speculates increased fuel prices may have been a factor. They probably had some effect, but wouldn’t explain by itself the big dip from last year. However the best figure for international comparisons is the per 10 million kms of road travel, so it will be interesting to see that.

Meanwhile the Dom Post reports:

The death of a man in north Canterbury’s Hurunui River yesterday took the year’s drowning toll to 96. …

Last year was only the second year since records began in 1980 that the national drowning total has stayed under 100. Dropping from 181 a year in the 1980s, the annual toll over the past decade has been around 119, getting down to 91 in 2006.

But still some way to go:

New Zealand had an “awful” international record for drowning deaths, Water Safety New Zealand general manager Matt Claridge said.

It sat third in the world after Brazil and Finland, with twice as many deaths as Australia and triple Britain’s toll.

And this may not help:

He repeated a warning yesterday that there was a lot worse to come. Last month he said that, because compulsory swimming lessons at schools were phased out in the 1990s, annual drownings were expected to get up to 180 again by 2030.

“The prospects for the future are worrying. If people don’t have the skills or make the right decisions, we’ll see those numbers go back up.”

Pupils were taught to swim in school pools in the 1960s and 1970s, but about 239 pools had closed between 2002 and 2005.

I didn’t realise swimming was no longer part of primary school. A pity.

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