Less death on the roads, but more to do

A huge reduction this year in NZ road fatalities, continuing a fantastic series.
NZ Road Fatalities series
What’s stark is the reduction since 1987, which is around about the time, as I recall, when the advertising campaigns really stepped up, drink driving was finally perceived by most people as a bad thing and random stops came in:
NZ Fatalities since 87 (road)

These stats are backed up by excellent work by Transport NZ, who publish annual reports and excellent source material.

Stuff’s lowest road toll since 1956 article mentioned these factors driving the drop:

  • Driver education/people driving more safely
  • Improved road engineering
  • Safer vehicles engineering
  • Police enforcement

Which ones matter the most? Easy – it’s road engineering and safer vehicles. Indeed you can heavily reduce the impact of idiot drivers by having separation of lanes, long, straight boring roads, big boring cars and perfect road surfaces. That would be the USA.

Then again – in Western Australia there are plenty of those – but their statistics are worse than NZ’s:
comparitive fatality stats - NZ/ Australia

Lowest ACT is all-city driving, while WA has a huge amount of country driving. There are plenty of kangaroos on thise roads, and, as I’ve seen, plenty of appalling dirt and sand roads to lose control on.

Not only are those roads extremely dangerous, but there are also a lot of idiot drivers. The prevailing car for hoons in WA seem to be hotted up Commodores, combined with speed and alcohol, if Fremantle on a Friday night is anything to go by. 

Indeed the rural areas contributed 106 of the 188 fatalities to November 2008, which is 56% of fatalities from 25% of the population. If that percentage stayed for December, then Perth itself is around NSW and ACT (Canberra) in death rates. But just look at the death rate for rural Western Australia – outrageous:
fatality stats - WA split

Aside from rural WA, NZ is the top of the list in death rates.

To me this is a fairly simple difference, and it is probably more apparent with vehicle miles. NZ’s roads are narrow, all corners and subject to a pretty astonishing array of weather conditions. Australia’s roads are wide, straight, more often separated from opposing lanes and subject to much milder weather. 

Both countries have worked hard at reducing the road deaths – and the results show. Kudos to South Australia and ACT in particular, with ACT proving that a low starting point doesn’t mean it is hard to reduce even further towards Zero Fatalities. Queensland and WA lower the standard and show the least improvement. Is it related to the fact that they both have substantial rural areas with still appalling roads?

Percentage drop in road fatalities per population from 1998 to 2008
comparitive drop

Published by Lance Wiggs


3 replies on “Less death on the roads, but more to do”

  1. Any chance we can see numbers of fatal accidents instead of fatalities? Four people dying in a single accident is not the same as four separate accidents with one death each. The current statistics are misleading as to the safety of the road.


  2. Lance,

    An excellent analysis. It is encouraging to see the steps that are getting NZ to be a safer place on the roads. It is always so depressing to hear of any deaths on the roads – always worse when it is a tourist for example who are not that used to the narrow roads and harsh road conditions around the country.

    A couple of other factors I woulds cite would be the poor public transport in NZ, especially outside of urban centers, this puts more people in cars.
    The driving age at 15 is in my view mad, there is little justification for it in this day and age.
    The stock of old poorly maintained (not maintained / not warranted) cars on the road that were imported from Japan over the past 20 years.

    Finally I think a similar analysis of the rural NZ fatalities compared to urban NZ fatalities would possibly show a worse number than the 21.7 of rural WA.


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