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Road deaths lower in 2019 but still work to do

Monday, January 13, 2020

The AA is encouraged by the first meaningful reduction in New Zealand’s road deaths in years during 2019, even if there is still a long way to go.

Provisional figures are that 353 people died in crashes last year, which is a step in the right direction, with fewer deaths than the previous two years.

In 2018 377 people lost their lives on our roads, and in 2017 there were 378 road deaths. While the 2019 total of 353 is lower than those two years, it is still higher than in 2016 (327) and 2015 (319).

AA Motoring Affairs general manager Mike Noon says there is no ‘good’ number of deaths on the roads, but after five years of increases it was very welcome to see fewer New Zealanders lose their lives in crashes in 2019. 

“It is a small but significant step in the right direction. Early on in the last decade we had three years where fewer than 300 people were killed on the roads, so we know it is possible.

“Hopefully this year’s reduction is just the start of a downward trend and we will have an even bigger fall in road deaths in 2020.”

Statistically, 2019 was an erratic year, with the months of July and October both having the lowest number of road deaths ever recorded, while other months like April and December had many more deaths than recent years.

The big difference between 2019 and the previous two years were fewer deaths among pedestrians, passengers and drivers. There were also substantially fewer deaths among 16-24 year olds.

“The Government launched a new road safety strategy right at the end of the year with a range of actions that it’s aiming to take to massively reduce harm on the roads,” says Noon.

“If we are going to achieve a big reduction in fatal and serious crashes then we need to be doing lots of things like improving and maintaining roads at large scale, intensifying the fight against impaired driving and lifting the standard of our vehicles, but it’s also up to all of us as individuals to do what we can.”

Noon says that crashes don’t just happen to bad and reckless drivers, and the New Year was a good chance for people to ask themselves if there was something they could do a bit better behind the wheel.

“If we can get all drivers to do better at simple things like keeping at least a two-second following distance, not using their phones or other distractions, driving to the conditions and being fully alert and focused behind the wheel, it will make a huge impact on safety.”