Official figures show 284 people were killed on roads in New Zealand in 2011. The annual road toll for 2010 was 375.
Police say higher petrol prices could be making for safer drivers.
Superintendent Paula Rose says drivers still travelled roughly the same distance this year as last.
But many drove more efficiently and in a more alert manner to conserve petrol, and that made them better drivers.
Superintendent Rose says the reduced toll can also be attributed to a healthy dose of policing on the roads during 2011.
Police Minister Anne Tolley says the last time the road toll was below 300 was in 1952.
However, the death of a pedestrian on SH20 in Auckland on Sunday morning increased the holiday road toll to 16, four more than for the whole holiday period last year.
Mrs Tolley says this figure is horrific and illustrates that there is no room for complacency.
Culture change needed
Mrs Tolley says New Zealand needs a culture change to keep the road toll down.
She says the Government has changed the laws but the community has to take responsibility too.
She wants young people to refuse to travel in cars with drivers who have been drinking or drive too fast.
That way, Mrs Tolley says, dangerous drivers will become pariahs and change their habits.
Provisional data issued on Sunday showed that alcohol was a factor in 38% of fatal crashes.