The total annual social cost of road crashes in New Zealand increased by 0.8 percent between 2011 and 2012 to $3.29 billion.

This is the combined result of an 8 percent rise in the 2012 road toll to 308 (from 284 in 2011) and a 4.3 percent reduction in the total number of injuries to 34,090 (from 35,620 in 2011).

2012 had the second-lowest number of deaths for any year since 1952, after 2011 (284 deaths).

Ministry of Transport Chief Executive Martin Matthews says that the findings, part of the Ministry’s annual Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries, show that despite recent improvements, the social cost is still too high.

“Road crashes have huge downstream effects on people and society. Over 90 percent of the total social cost is related to loss of life or permanent disability. Other costs include vehicle damage, medical costs, legal and court costs.”

The average social cost of a single fatal road crash in June 2013 was $4.54 million, while the average cost of a serious crash (where a serious injury results) was $473,600.

“These social costings are just one more way of reminding people of the impact road crashes are having on our society,” says Mr Matthews. “Road safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

The Ministry also released the annual Motor Vehicle Crashes in New Zealand report for 2012, an updated set of Crash Fact Sheets and an analysis of the road toll decrease since 1990.

Motor Vehicle Crashes in New Zealand confirmed that alcohol and speed continue to be major contributors to New Zealand’s road toll and crash rate. Of the 308 fatalities and 12,122 people injured in the 2012 calendar year:

  • alcohol or drug use was a contributing factor in 31 percent of fatal crashes
  • speed was a contributing factor in 25 percent of fatal crashes
  • fatigue (13 percent) and inattention (12 percent) were also major contributing factors for fatal crashes
  • the age group with the highest percentage of road deaths and injuries was 20-24 year-olds, followed by 25-29 year-olds and 15-19 year-olds.

Mr Matthews says the report is a sobering reminder of the number of crashes on New Zealand roads.

“Even though our road toll for 2012 was the second lowest in 60 years, a person was killed every 28 hours on average on our roads.

“All these statistics confirm the need for our continued commitment to the Safer Journeys road safety strategy.”

In recent years the government has changed give way rules, lowered alcohol limits and launched targeted education for young drivers, strengthened driver licence tests and progressed work on building safer roads.

In November Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee introduced the Land Transport Amendment Bill 2013 to Parliament, which will lower the adult breath alcohol limit from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250 mcg.

An analysis of the decrease in the road toll since 1990 has also been made. The road toll fell by 58 percent over that period – from 729 deaths in 1990, to 308 deaths in 2012.
The Ministry of Transport commissioned preliminary research to look at the factors that might have contributed to this drop.

The research found that if there had been no change in the number of deaths for every kilometre driven on our roads, there would have been 12,300 more deaths between 1990 and 2012. The research also concluded that 10,000 of the lives saved between 1990 and 2012 could be accounted for by:

  • improvements in vehicle crash worthiness and a reduction in motorcycling (45 percent)
  • investment in roading improvements (19 percent)
  • changes in driver behaviour, particularly in the areas of drink driving and speeding (36 percent).

In the 12 months to December 16, 2013, 261 people have died in road crashes – 46 fewer than at the same date in 2012 and 47 fewer than the 2012 road toll. Provisional figures are available every day.

Information on road toll trends

Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries

Motor Vehicle Crashes in New Zealand 2012.

Crash Fact Sheets.

Analysis of the factors contributing to the long-term road toll decrease.

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