1 Jan 2011

Road toll down, but 'too many young' still dying

1:06 pm on 1 January 2011

The number of road deaths in New Zealand for 2010 is the second lowest on record, but police say too many young people are still dying in crashes.

The provisional road toll for the year stands at 373 - which is 12 fewer fatalities than in 2009.

In 2008, 366 people were killed on the roads, the lowest number on record to date.

December 2010 recorded the lowest number of fatalities for that month. National road policing manager Superintendent Paula Rose says 29 people died on the roads, down from 35 in 2009.

Superintendent Rose says the long-term downward trend in deaths is due to safer vehicles, roading improvements and better driving behaviour.

However, she says it is not acceptable that young people aged 15 to 24 accounted for 30% of road deaths last year.

"Some of them are driving outside the conditions of their licence; alcohol is frequently part of the - dare I say it - the death cocktail. And they have others in the car with them.

"Usually they're entry-level vehicles that they have without things like air bags and electronic stability control."

Ms Rose says police and other agencies are focusing on improving road safety among young people, high-risk drivers and motorcyclists, who were over four times more likely to die in crashes in 2010 than other road users.

Road safety is the responsibility of everyone - not just the police, she says.

First death of year

The first road death for 2011 happened two hours into the year after a 35-year-old man crashed his Holden Commodore in Hastings.

His passenger suffered moderate injuries. No other vehicles were involved.

The holiday road toll stands at 7 on Saturday afternoon. The period began on 26 December at 4pm and ends on 5 January at 6am.