For the first time in six years, we ended the calendar year with fewer road deaths than the year before. It’s an improvement but only a small victory when you consider that 353 people, just under 1 person a day, died on our roads in 2019 and that’s still 100 more than did so in 2013.
We had been tracking even lower but December was the deadliest we’ve had in over a decade.
Here are a few graphs based on the Ministry of Transport’s reporting that break down the numbers in 2019 compared to the last few years.
Car drivers are unsurprisingly at the top of the list followed by passengers and as you can see below, two categories increased compared to 2018, motorcycle riders (53) and cyclists (13).
When we split the data by age group we can see that those between 40 and 59 were the highest age group for 2019 and a big jump from previous years. We can also see that sadly those under 15 were also growing. Note: the age bands are not consistent.
There is quite a disproportionate split when it comes to gender with significantly more males dying than women.
Road deaths occur fairly evenly between local roads and state highways, matching other measures such as vehicle kilometres travelled. But added together, almost three quarters of deaths occur on open roads as opposed to urban roads. I hope we start to see significant reductions in that state highway number over the coming years as the NZTA rolls out it’s various safety programme, such as wire rope barriers.
Finally for this breakdown, by region. As you can see below, Auckland was one of the most improved in 2019 with 40 deaths, down from 54 in 2018 and 64 in 2017, although that is still far too many. The Waikato continues to be the worst performer.
Looking at the first graph, the results do seem to be coming back down again but it’s going to take a lot of time just to get back to where we were. That got me thinking about what if we had of stayed on the trajectory we were on with reducing road deaths, what would the numbers start to look like. My guess is we would probably be sitting at about 200 deaths in 2019 and had that happened, it would have equated to about 700 fewer deaths on our roads since 2013.
Getting close to that figure is the target that has been set in the government’s new 10-year road safety strategy that was officially announced just before Christmas and is based on Vision Zero
The Government will boost investment in road safety upgrades and road policing tools as part of its new Road to Zero strategy and initial action plan launched today by Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter.
“Most fatal and serious crashes are preventable. Road to Zero follows international best practice and outlines a comprehensive list of actions that will make our roads, vehicles, speed limits and drivers safer over the next decade, said Julie Anne Genter.
“Road to Zero includes a new commitment to boost road safety investment by 25 percent to around $1 billion per year over the next decade. This additional investment will support:
- new enforcement technologies for Police, including drug testing equipment;
- 1,000 kilometres of additional median crash barriers;
- More than 1,700 kilometres of other safety treatments like roadside crash barriers and rumble strips;
- 1,500 intersection upgrades like roundabouts and raised pedestrian crossings.”
“To drive real action Road to Zero sets a target to reduce annual deaths and serious injuries by 40 percent by 2030 (compared to the 377 people killed last year).
“Meeting this target would save 750 lives and prevent 5,600 serious injuries on New Zealand roads over the next decade
“Already this Government is investing a record $1.4 billion over three years in targeted upgrades to over 3,300km of our most dangerous roads. This plan proposes greater investment in proven safety upgrades like median barriers, roundabouts and safe cycling infrastructure.
“During consultation New Zealanders sent a very clear message that they were not prepared to accept the trauma on our roads, and they want change.
“The Road to Zero action plan outlines 15 priority road safety actions for the next three years. This includes an additional action to address concerns around driving training and licensing following consultation.
“The Government has also announced today one of the priority actions – to strengthen drug driving enforcement by introducing oral fluid testing of drivers, said Julie Anne Genter.
Speaking of Vision Zero, a couple of days ago we saw this result from Oslo.
This makes me happy:
Road deaths in Oslo (pop. 673.000) in 2019:
The graph shows the reduction of road deaths since 1975.
Article in Norwegian: https://t.co/9Dv2bLZlFT
— Anders Hartmann (@andershartmann) January 1, 2020
Norway adopted Vision Zero in 1999 and has seen significant reduction in the number of road deaths with just one in Oslo last year and across the entire country, no children died at all on roads, the first time that’s happened since at least WW2.