Record 2011 road toll improvement shows what is possible

Press Release – Automobile Association

The AA hopes this year’s road toll is the start of a new era for New Zealand road safety. Record 2011 road toll improvement shows what is possible

The AA hopes this year’s road toll is the start of a new era for New Zealand road safety.

The 2011 road toll is 280, as of 30 December. While this is still a tragic loss of life, it is the lowest level of fatalities in New Zealand since 1952 when records began.

In 2010 there were 375 people killed on our roads, 278 had died by the end of September alone, so a drop of nearly 100 deaths in a year is a truly amazing result.

To illustrate just how remarkable a reduction this is, New Zealand’s road toll for 2011 is currently less than the road toll of 287 in the Australian state of Victoria – which is regarded as a road safety leader in Australasia. The last time New Zealand’s road toll was lower than Victoria’s was 1989.

The massive drop in our road toll this year has been across the board. There has been substantially less deaths for drivers, passengers, and motorcyclists and across every age group except 40-59 year olds.

Almost every month of the year has seen less deaths than its equivalent in 2010 and numerous regions throughout the country have experienced big reductions.

The latest official regional road toll statistics, current to 19 December, show most regions experienced a dramatic drop in the number of fatalities in 2011 compared to the previous year:

· Northland, down 68%

· Auckland, down 4%

· Waikato, down 5%

· Gisborne / Hawke’s Bay, down 26%

· Bay of Plenty, down 53%

· Taranaki, down 18%

· Manawatu / Wanganui, down 31%

· Wellington, up 10%

· Nelson / Marlborough, down 67%

· West Coast, no change

· Canterbury, down 34%

· Otago, down 12%

· Southland, down 42%

“This has been an unprecedented and watershed year for road safety in New Zealand,” says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon.

“The last time our road toll was at this level the population was half its current size and there were only one-sixth of the number of cars on the road.

“The fact that almost 100 more people have enjoyed Christmas and New Year with their family and friends than in 2010 is something that everyone in the country should be very happy about. Saving those lives also saves the country an estimated social cost of about $400 million.”

The major focus will now be on why this year suddenly had such a major drop and the AA will look forward to seeing the results of the Ministry of Transport’s research into this. Early indications are the number of crashes causing injuries have also fallen and the amount of kilometres driven by New Zealanders has not dropped much from last year but it takes longer for this data to become available.

“We know there is no silver bullet for improving road safety and it requires a combination of better driver behaviour, improving the quality of our roads and roadsides and increasing the safety of our vehicles,” says Mr Noon.

“There will be multiple factors involved in this year’s dramatic improvement but we need to establish a picture of what they are to ensure the downward trend continues.

“What 2011 has proven is that it is achievable for us to have substantially less people killed and injured on our roads.

“If we can do it once, we can do it again and there is no reason that 2012 cannot be an even better year. As great as it is to see such a massive drop in our road toll, there are still far too many people dying unnecessarily in crashes.”

“New Zealand started the global Decade of Action for Road Safety this year and we want 2011 to be looked back on as a turning-point in our history.

“There has been some momentous changes made on our roads over the last 12 months including a zero alcohol limit for drivers under 20 implemented, the learner licence age raised to 16 and of course the Ghost Chips ad phenomenon.

“In the next few months the Restricted Licence test will be made harder and our Give Way rules will change, and the AA is confident that these changes will also help to keep reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads.”

Ends

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