At 4pm tomorrow afternoon the official Christmas Holiday period starts and if everyone can drive well then we will end up with the lowest annual road toll since 1950. As of this morning the toll was sitting at 247 however as a comparison, at the same time last year the toll was at 300.
Back in 1950 the annual road toll was 232 and the lowest year after was in 1952 when it was 272 and since then the only time it has been less than 300 was in 2011 when it was 284. Of course back in 1950 New Zealand had less than half of the population it does today and there were much fewer cars on the roads so when comparing the results it’s also useful to do so on a per capita basis. Doing that reveals that the only time the road toll has been lower was back in the early 1920’s, a time when there weren’t that many cars on the roads.
The graph below shows the total road toll and the toll per 100,000 population. Both measures peaked in 1973 when the road toll reached 843 and the toll per 100,000 people was 27.9 (it’s on track to be less than 6). The 2013 figure is based on the result as it stands today.
The numbers can also be broken down by different types of road user, the graph below shows this since 1951 and is based on the number of deaths per 100,000 population.
Of course we still have the Christmas holiday period to come and that can often dramatically increase the number of crashes. Last year saw the lowest road toll over the Christmas period since records began being kept in the late 1950’s although it’s worth noting that the length of the official holiday period changes depending on which days Christmas and New Year fall on. The graph below shows the road toll over the Christmas/New Year period along with the 5 year average.
I really hope the low result of last year can be matched or even bettered. One of the things that may help in achieving that is the lower speed tolerance of 4km/h which is in place over all of December and January. Of this the police have said:
“Our road policing managers around the country (say) staff are struggling to find people at the high-end speeds, which is fantastic.
“People who have been stopped at the lower-level speeds say they’re aware of (the lower speed threshold) and are apologetic … Of course there are still those amongst us who travel too quickly, but they will stand out more clearly.”
My wife and I left Auckland yesterday and it was definitely noticeable that those on the roads seemed to be driving much better than usual. We saw less than a handful of drivers that were being idiots and even then the idiocy was of a much lesser severity than is often experienced.
Lastly let’s not forget that while 247 deaths is low in comparison to what our road toll has been in the past. It’s still a hell of a lot of people that are losing their lives unnecessarily which has huge social and economic impacts. If a plane carrying that many people were to crash or building collapse killing that number of people we would be having huge inquiries and putting in lots of measures to prevent it from happening again.
If you are travelling this holiday period please stay safe.