Some good news to start the new year with the road toll ending up the lowest in over 60 years. The provisional figure for 2013 is 254 which is more than 50 fewer than 2012 however that is up from the 243 it was nine days earlier when I wrote this post. The Christmas Holiday period road toll is currently sitting at 6, the same level it was for the entire holiday period last year but there are still a few days to go yet. I don’t have the information for injuries for this year yet but you can see how they compare to road deaths up to 2012 in the graph below

Road Toll 2013 - 1

And here is the road death info by a few other metrics. Interesting how closely the deaths per 100,000 population tracks with the deaths per Vehicle Kilometres Travelled. Would be good to get VKT data back further than 2001 if it exists.

Road Toll 2013 by Pop, Veh, Vkt - 1

Hopefully this year we can see the toll reduce further.

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  1. Interesting questions from those graphs.

    Could NZ Inc get the annual road toll below 100 within the next 7 years?

    From comparing the change from 2006 to 2013 (about 150 fewer deaths annually over those 7 years), and with the current road toll being just over 250, it looks feasible if the current rate of decline can be maintained – as it has been more or less since 1996 (which itself was a less steep drop than the drop in previous years 1989 to 1996).

    And, how about considering an even more ambitious goal – reduce the road toll in 2023 below the 1923 figure (which as I read the graph was about 75 deaths in 1921).

    Both goals of course must allow for more “traffic” on the roads as the economy improves – but as VKT in total each year continues to decline, then yes I believe its possible to get there for both sets of figures.
    Wouldn’t that be something to aim at – getting the lowest road toll ever since records were kept – even then it still it would be too high, but lets get it to this level regardless and then have that discussion.

    Imagine the resources that fewer accidents and deaths could then be freed up to tackle other issues.

    The ACC could even manage to balance the ACC “Fully funded” Motor Vehicle accounts sooner than 2017 at this rate, meaning a reduction in car registration fees sooner than later (yeah right).

    Could it even be the case that in a few years, the way the annual work place “death toll” is going up, that the work place death rate could eventually exceed the road toll.

    So the most dangerous place to be (statistically) would then be your job – not getting to, or from it (or away from it completely e.g. on holidays).
    Not ideal scenario mind you and an indictment of workplace safety policies, but if road deaths are way down, something else will eventually replace it.

  2. Simple interventions are still underfunded. While billions gets diverted into grand highways of national significance (which do have substantial safety benefits), cheaper interventions are left by the roadside.

    Let’s start with a well acknowledged fact: most fatal incidents occur when a vehicle leaves the road, or crosses the centre line. There is plenty of scope to address this.

    For example, the NZTA describes rumble strips as among the most cost effective safety improvements. For just $10m, 650km (10% of the state highway network) was provided. For $90m, the rest could be covered, and particularly dangerous local roads covered.

    Even more important, and even cheaper would be painting yellow lines. In 2014, with a reduced tolerance for speeding, and almost all vehicles travelling at or around 95km/h, there is little need for overtaking. What there is should be covered by overtaking lanes exclusively. I was shocked to see broken white lines on the great majority of SH1, in places where an oncoming vehicle would have nowhere to go.

    The next Minister should make a near-zero goal a Ministry-wide determining priority.

    (Meantime, Thailand, with approximately 40 million people, had 266 deaths in the last five days of 2013. In much of the world things are still worsening.)

    1. What [overtaking]there is should be covered by overtaking lanes exclusively. I was shocked to see broken white lines on the great majority of SH1, in places where an oncoming vehicle would have nowhere to go.

      That would be a massive change in how yellow lines are used, and would likely causes many deaths in the transition as a minimum. Currently yellow lines ‘prevent’ you overtaking where it is unsafe to do so for reasons outside the norm (e.g. due to non-obvious dips, next to passing lanes, etc). You’re suggesting that it should be illegal to overtake a tractor doing 50km/h in a place with good visibility (so people see the law as stupid), meaning those that currently pass responsibly either get more frustrated, or get used to breaking an unreasonable rule. Idiots carry on being idiots. Respect of all road rules drops.
      Passing on a blind corner with dotted white lines is currently illegal.

  3. Should be more than 50 fewer deaths in the first paragraph by the way.

    This is great news but driving from gisborne to auckland today it was obvious that a lot of very cheap safety fixes would go a long way

  4. I think the Netherlands and Sweden have one of the lowest road tolls per VKT (3 and 4 fatalities per billion VKT respectively), so they probably set worthy benchmarks for NZ.

    Matt’s analysis shows we’re currently around 6, so we should be aiming to approximately halve the current road toll (assuming total VKT remains constant) from 254 to 125-ish.

    There’s an interesting divergence in trends between fatalities and injuries – with the latter flat-lining while the former declines. May indicate that people are still crashing, they’re just less likely to die when they do so? I.e. safer cars.

    Be good to get that injury rate coming down too via some preventative measures of the type noted in the comments above.

    1. Vehicles with better safety features, and big leaps in medical intervention’s capability to help people survive, have made a very under-estimated contribution to lower the road toll. Toss in improvements in extrication practices and equipment, and a higher proportion of crash victims are making it to hospital alive than was previously possible.

    2. Part of the difference between deaths and injuries is probably to do with trauma medicine which has improved. These improvements have seen the ratio of combat deaths to combat injuries drop dramatically for US troops.

  5. Driving around the country these holidays it amazes me how badly planned our road network is – and the ensuing risks that people have to take to complete their journey. The road from Taupo to Rotorua for instance has half the distance replete with frequent overtaking lanes, enabling cars to safely get ahead of slower trucks (or vice versa…), while the other half of the route has none at all. This despite it being a high traffic route both in terms of tourist traffic and logging trucks. Similarly, routes from Woodville to the Wairarapa are devoid of overtaking bays for nearly the whole route, and people get frustrated being behind a dawdling slowcoach and take huge risks to try and squeeze past… An even distribution of such simple measures would surely be a far better spending of funds than on the monstrous Rons such as Transmission Gully – and have a better effect on the death toll coming down.

  6. It is pretty shocking to reflect on just how many people died on our roads in the early 70s. What a tragic waste. Thank goodness the trend is in the right direction (and will hopefully go lower).

  7. Higher congestion of course makes for lower injury and death rates simply because speeds are lower [even if more fender-benders occur]. If traffic engineers really put safety above vehicle speed then restricting road space for driving would be a key policy.

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