Overstating our road toll

June 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar


By just about any measure, New Zealand driving is worse than in any comparable developed country. When, 40 years ago, the carnage on the roads was much higher it was taken as the price to be paid for road travel. The losses suffered now, while tragic for individuals and families, are looked upon in the same way. They should not be. Just as 40 years ago a very large proportion of them were avoidable, so they are now. We should all be doing more to avoid them.

This is not true. We are near the middle of the OECD.

In 2011 18 OECD countries had a higher per 100,000 population and 18 had a lower one. On 2013 data we would appear to be doing even better with 22 countries having a higher toll and 14 a lower toll.

This is not to say we don’t want to keep reducing the road toll. But an editorial which claims we are worse than any comparable developed country is quite simply wrong. The 2013 road toll was 5.7 per 100,000 population.

14 Responses to “Overstating our road toll”

  1. Auberon (811 comments) says:

    The Press in fucking things up shock.

    Should be re-named the Grauniad.

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  2. Rex Widerstrom (5,130 comments) says:

    Ahhh, but it’s the “by just about any measure” that lets them off the hook, DPF.

    What that means is “leaving aside objective measures such as actual deaths and substituting such rigorous criteria as anecdotal information and uninformed opinion, and not forgetting the deceitful manipulation of statistics by the police to justify their revenue raising” then New Zealand driving is worse than in any comparable developed country.

    It’s the same as the police saying “speed was a factor in x% of fatal crashes”. All that means is that the vehicle wasn’t stationary at the time. Even if we choose to read into it that the vehicle was thought to be travelling in excess of the speed limit – something we can’t actually validly assume from that turn of phrase – then there is absolutely nothing to prove that had one of the other factors been removed from the equation (drunkenness, the affects of drugs, the inexperience of the driver, the lack of roadworthiness of the vehicle, the distraction taking place inside the vehicle, or just sheer driver error, amongst others) the accident would never have happened despite the excess speed.

    Until we’re told the truth by those in charge of road safety, we can hardly expect mere editorial writers to cleave to the same standard.

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  3. David Garrett (11,134 comments) says:

    Why do we have this fascination in this country with claiming we are the worst – or if not that then “among the worst” – on this or that measure? Such claims are almost always false. The best example of course is our imprisonment rate supposedly being “second highest in the world”, behind the US

    Again, as apparently with road crash rates, we are in fact about the middle of the OECD on imprisonment rates and if you include all the South American and African dictatorships we are no doubt not even in the top quartile.

    It’s sort of a mirror image of our “punching above our weight” thing…just as “we” conquered Mt Everest and split the atom, at the other end of the scale we have to be worst at a bunch of things also.

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  4. Gulag1917 (1,642 comments) says:

    Driving in Nz is average not bad. NZ has more hills and mountains therefore more corners = bigger chance of accidents.

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  5. Rex Widerstrom (5,130 comments) says:

    And another piece of distortion. As noted in “OECD Health Data 2013: Definitions, Sources and Methods”:

    – The NZ approach of adjustment for under-reporting of injuries in RTAs may differ from other OECD countries which do not adjust for under-reporting and provide one explanation why NZ’s RTA injury rates exceed those of other countries.

    So essentially, the RTA and Police are saying “there were x crashes reported but we think there was more, so we’ll say y occurred” (at little more scientifically, than that, but that’s essentially what’s occurring).

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  6. FeralScrote (805 comments) says:

    Unfortunately David part of our national psyche is that people feel the need to take others down a peg or two,nobody is allowed to get ideas above their station.

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  7. flipper (5,339 comments) says:

    Any death is tragic. But the road toll stats are bullshit, and always have been.

    When the MOT patrolled the roads they were honest in their use of stats. Ray Polaschek and Barney Campbell would have it not other way. Why? The primary cause is inadequate road design. Alcohol and speed contribute, but not to the extent promoted by the gang in blue (et al).

    It is really chance. An accident today may result in minor injuries. The same accident tomorrow, or next week/month may result in one or more deaths. Think about that,. One death, or three, from a single driver error – or worse – or none.

    So all this pious pontificating by the pollies, the gang in blue, and media, is baseless self promotion.

    Deal with the real cause, not what you would wish it to be.

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  8. RightNow (7,328 comments) says:

    5 times as many people die of bowel cancer every year in NZ than die on our roads, but I can’t even recall the last time I saw an ad on TV about that.

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  9. Brian Smaller (4,333 comments) says:

    Simple – reduce to road toll to a few dozen a year. Make helmets compulsory in cars. Apparently it worked for cyclists.

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  10. wikiriwhis business (5,217 comments) says:

    Patience is a virtue on NZ roads. Stay in your lane.

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  11. get a grip (10 comments) says:

    Better measurement than road deaths per head of population is deaths per 1 billion kilometres driven….
    But better still should be numbers of “serious” accidents not deaths or injuries.

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  12. David Garrett (11,134 comments) says:

    Brian S: I don’t know if you are taking the piss, but this was seriously proposed some years ago. I believe we will all be wearing helmets in cars well within my lifetime.

    flipper: Well said. Your comment reminds me of some research done by an academic at Massey some years ago (I think his name may have been Bailey) which in a nutshell found that a middle aged driver over the limit – even well over – was less likely to have a crash than a young driver who was well under.

    He concluded that this was because the older drivers knew they were impaired, so drove very cautiously, treating every Give Way as a Stop, every orange light as a Red, and carefully driving just under the limit. The young dumb and full of…bravado on the other hand thought they were racing drivers after a drink or two, with predictable consequences.

    The good professor’s research was promptly buried because it didn’t – and still doesn’t – fit with the “every ‘drunk’ driver is the same risk” theory that is still current. I note though that lately we have been seeing ads which are squarely aimed at the young, so perhaps a little reality is creeping in.

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  13. flipper (5,339 comments) says:

    David G..,,.,.

    Yep… John Bailey, lived down the road from me in Whitby, but he was then with DSIR and conducted the original breath test demos for politicians in P Bldgs. I was there, and took part.

    He went on from there to show how the whole exercise had been overblown by ‘crats, media and pollies.

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  14. Left Right and Centre (4,492 comments) says:

    I don’t know about the poor road design causing everything argument.

    If every driver drove 100% of the time as if a testing officer was in the passenger seat – what would happen to the road toll and to crash rates ?

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