Analysis of deaths and serious injuries involving people not wearing seatbelts (Completed)

The AA Research Foundation collaborated with a number of Government agencies to jointly commission research into the types of people dying in crashes where they were not wearing seatbelts and the offence history of those caught being unrestrained.


Vehicle occupants not wearing a seatbelt - An analysis of fatalities and traffic offences in New Zealand

In New Zealand, seat-belt wearing rates are high, yet non-seat belt fatalities accounted for 19-30% of overall motor vehicle occupant road deaths between 2006 and 2016.

The fact that these potentially preventable deaths are not decreasing is an issue worthy of investigation. It is important to better understand the contextual factors associated with crashes where seat belts are not worn, so that more relevant and effective road safety interventions can be designed and implemented.

Mackie Research, RIDNZ and TERNZ Transport Research have produced this report analysing 200 deaths where someone was not wearing a seatbelt as well as traffic offence history for those caught unrestrained.

Expert Steering Group

  • Simon Douglas - AA Research Foundation Manager
  • Dylan Thomsen - AA Research Foundation Advisor
  • Alec Morrison - Ministry of Transport
  • Alex Brocklehurst - NZ Transport Agency
  • Rebecca Whiting - Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Nils van Lamoen - NZ Police


The AA Research Foundation combined with the above Government agencies for this research and the level of co-operation speaks to the level of concern around this issue.

Why is the AA interested?

In New Zealand, many of the “easy wins” in road safety have been achieved. 

We are now entering the challenging area of changing social norms in targeted, and in some cases potentially difficult to reach, sections of society. 

A safe system approach demands that we look to change these norms at the same time as we continue looking at vehicles, roads and road-sides in our drive to reduce the road toll, and the impact of serious crashes. 

Interventions such as building/retrofitting safer roads or improving safety features in cars are expensive and have long timeframes. 

Many people have thought that ‘simple’ solutions such as using restraints had been achieved. But while overall usage rates are high (although a small drop has occurred between the last two MoT observational surveys), the increase in fatal and serious crashes where restraints were not worn suggests that this is not a problem that has been solved. 

If all those not wearing restraints buckled up, a huge number of road deaths would be prevented. 

There is arguably no other initiative where such gains could be made for such, on the face of it, simple changes.

Using this research to educate drivers

One of the groups identified in this research as high risk for not belting up was people who drive for work. The AA does a lot of driver training for businesses that run vehicle fleets and saw an opportunity to highlight this risk to people as part of our training.

Make sure your seatbelt catches you!

Page last updated: December 2018

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