Record low 2011 road toll but more to be done

Press Release – New Zealand Government

1 January 2012 Media Statement Record low 2011 road toll but more to be done Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Police Minister Anne Tolley say the record low 2011 road toll of 284 is encouraging but they are urging road users to remain vigilant in keeping …Hon Gerry Brownlee
Minister of Transport
Hon Anne Tolley
Minister of Police
1 January 2012 Media Statement

Record low 2011 road toll but more to be done
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Police Minister Anne Tolley say the record low 2011 road toll of 284 is encouraging but they are urging road users to remain vigilant in keeping the road toll down.

The provisional 2011 toll compares with 375 in 2010, 384 in 2009 and 366 in 2008. The last time the road toll was below 300 was in 1952 when 272 people died.

The Ministers say that the current holiday road toll illustrates why there is no room for complacency.

“The high number of fatalities so far during this holiday period shows us how important it is to keep up our efforts. New Zealand still ranks behind other countries for the amount of death and injury on our roads. Alcohol continues to play too big a part in our road toll, and young drivers are also over represented in crash statistics.

“The ongoing challenge is to keep the road toll low throughout 2012 and beyond.”

Provisional data for 2011 indicates that alcohol was a factor in 38 per cent of fatal crashes and speed a factor in 26 per cent

“The last time New Zealand had a road toll this low the population was half what it is now and there were less than half a million vehicles on the road, compared to the 3.2 million we have now,” Mr Brownlee says.

“But even with this result, too many people are still dying on our roads. Road deaths leave families, friends and communities devastated, and road accidents leave many people living with the effects of serious injuries.”

A number of factors are likely to have played a part in the low 2011 road toll, including greater police enforcement and generally higher public awareness of safety issues, fuel prices and economic factors, legislation and road rule changes.

Mrs Tolley has praised the efforts of Police for contributing to the low road toll.

“The vigilance and professionalism of our Police has played a huge part in keeping the road toll down,” says Mrs Tolley.

“But the holiday road toll shows that we must continue to focus on reducing the danger on our roads, and our thoughts are with all of those families who have lost loved ones.”

There has only been a slight decrease in travel over the past year, so this alone will not have had a significant impact on the road toll. The Ministry of Transport will be carrying out research to help improve understanding of the factors that led to the low road toll.
Questions and Answers – 2011 Annual Road Toll

Why is the 2011 toll so low?

A number of factors are likely to have played a part, including fuel prices and economic factors, legislation and road rule changes, more police enforcement and generally higher public awareness. The Ministry is now commissioning research on the 2011 road toll, to help improve our understanding of the factors that lead to a low road toll.

While economic factors or fuel prices are likely to have had an effect, figures for 2011 show only a slight decrease in travel over 2011 and so this alone will not have had a significant impact on the road toll.

In the longer term, we would note that substantial progress has been made in road safety over the last thirty years through measures including road rule changes, the introduction of the graduated driving licensing system, targeted police enforcement, driver education and road improvements. Improvements have also been made in vehicle safety technology and design. Several of these changes have been evaluated and found to have helped reduce the rate of road death.

The government is currently working to reduce the level of death and injury on our roads through its Safer Journeys road safety strategy. This takes a safe system approach to road safety setting actions for safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles, and safe road use. Already, a number of these actions have been progressed. These include a rise in the driving age, a zero drink drive limit for young drivers and repeat drink drivers, an increase in the penalty for dangerous driving causing death, actions to improve the safety of novice motorcyclists, legislation to allow for alcohol interlocks and a Rule to change the give way rules on 25 March 2012.

How much of an impact have fuel prices and the economic climate had compared to other measures?

Higher fuel prices and economic challenges can mean people choose not to use their vehicles as much or change their travel patterns and this could affect crash numbers. However, statistics from September show that while there was a drop in road travel during 2011, this was only slight compared to last year, and so unlikely to have had a significant impact on the low toll.

These travel figures are available in the Ministry’s quarterly report at: http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/Quarterly_road_toll_report_JULY_SEPT_2011.pdf

Will we be able to maintain a road toll at this level?

Maintaining a lower level of road death is up to all of us. The government is working to reduce death and injury through actions from its Safer Journeys road safety strategy and action plan, but ultimately we all need to play a part if we are to continue to significantly reduce death and injury on our roads.

There are steps we can all take to help with this. Those involved in the design and development of our roads and vehicles can make safety a top priority in this work. Road users can choose safer vehicles and take steps to plan their trips to avoid fatigue, drive to the conditions, and use commonsense and courtesy to avoid putting themselves and others at risk.

In addition, further research into the 2011 road toll can help us understand the factors that lead to this low road toll, and what we can do to help keep it low.

When did we last have a road toll this low?

New Zealand hasn’t had a road toll below 300 since 1952 when 272 people were killed as a result of road crashes.

When will you know why the 2011 toll was so low?

The Ministry has been analysing the road toll through quarterly reports to help find the quantifiable trends behind crashes, but further work is needed to help explain just what was so significant about 2011. The Ministry is now commissioning research to better understand this.

How many injuries were there in 2011?

Complete injury data for 2011 is not yet available. This will take some more time to collate and will be available later in 2012.

Was any one month or period in 2011 especially low?

There were seven months in 2011 with record low numbers of road deaths. Planned research into the 2011 road toll may tell us if there was anything significant about those months.

What is the greatest drop between years?

The table below shows the greatest decrease in road deaths by number between two years.

Greatest decrease by NUMBER
Rank Year Number of road deaths Following year Number of road deaths Difference from prior year % diff from prior year
1 1973 843 1974 676 -167 -19.8%
2 1978 654 1979 554 -100 -15.3%
3 2010 375 2011 284 -91 -24.3%
4 1990 729 1991 650 -79 -10.8%
5 1930 246 1931 170 -76 -30.9%
6 1987 795 1988 727 -68 -8.6%
7 1995 582 1996 514 -68 -11.7%
8 2007 421 2008 366 -55 -13.1%
9 2001 455 2002 405 -50 -11.0%
10 1967 570 1968 522 -48 -8.4%


Are fewer people dying on our roads because safer cars mean they are being seriously injured instead?

While it may be that safer cars mean that some individuals will be seriously injured rather than dying, research has shown that overall safer vehicles help to lower risk of both death and serious injury.

Reducing the number of serious injuries on our roads is a focus of the government’s Safer Journeys road safety strategy and action plan.

How do we compare to other countries?

Research carried out during 2011 showed that other countries also had a reduction in road deaths in this year, although New Zealand’s reduction was much greater.

While this toll is very low for New Zealand, we do still lag beyond other OECD countries for the number of road deaths per population. International comparisons are not yet available for 2011, but in recent years New Zealand’s rate of road death per level of population has been much higher than that of countries like the United Kingdom and Sweden. Even with this result we are still likely to be above these and other OECD countries.

International comparisons are available in the Ministry of Transport’s Annual Statistical Statement Motor Vehicle Crashes in New Zealand at: http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Pages/motorvehiclecrashesinnewzealand.aspx


Does this mean we don’t have to do as much to improve road safety?

A significant number of people died unnecessarily in 2011 and that is not acceptable. Death and injury do not have to be an inevitable part of our use of the roads. The government is working to improve road safety through the Safe System approach set out in the Safer Journeys strategy. This means actions for safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles and safe road use. This approach also relies on us all doing what we can to improve safety, whether it is building safer roads as a road designer or choosing a safer vehicle as a consumer.

Information on Safer Journeys and its Safe System approach is available at: www.saferjourneys.govt.nz

What do we do next in road safety?

In 2012 we will be working to improve road safety through the actions set out in our Safer Journeys Action Plan 2011 – 2012. This sets actions for across the road system, aiming for safe roads, safe vehicles, safe speeds and safe road use.

A second action plan will be developed to cover the period following 2011-2012.
The Safer Journeys Action Plan 2011-2012 is available at www.saferjourneys.govt.nz

Does this mean that TV ads /improved roads/vehicles have had an effect?

It is hard to single out one factor as having an effect on the road toll, and no one road safety action is ever expected to be a silver bullet. However, combined efforts and actions for improving road safety will have helped with the progress made in reducing the road toll over the last 30 years.

Has the Christchurch earthquake had an effect on road crash numbers?

It is not clear whether the earthquake has had any impact on the road toll. Canterbury has had a decrease in fatal crashes in 2011, but so have most other regions.

Has the recently introduced drug driving/ drink driving/ driving age legislation had an effect?

It is too early to say if this legislation has had an effect on the road toll. However, the attention given to road safety matters as a result of this legislation may have also helped with awareness, and so had some impact on driver behaviour.
When will we know if our efforts are successful?

We are monitoring several areas to evaluate the progress of the actions we take through our Safer Journeys strategy, but as long as people are still being killed or seriously injured on our roads there will be a need for efforts to improve road safety.

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