Annual road deaths down but still tragically high

1 January 2024

Annual road deaths down but still tragically high

New Zealand’s annual road toll has fallen from the 2022 total, but the longer-term picture shows tragic incidents continuing to cast a severe shadow over the country’s roads, the AA says.

Provisional figures show 343 people lost their lives in a crash in 2023. This is 31 less road deaths than in 2022, which had spiked back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Any year where the road toll is lower than the previous one is positive, but we are still tracking at nearly a death every day. This is still well above the number of road deaths there were a decade ago,” says AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.


New Zealand Road Fatalities 2013-2023























*Provisional figure

Dylan says there is more that could be done to make the country’s roads safer, with some key actions being:

  • Consistent high-levels of testing for drunk driving
  • Introduce roadside drug testing
  • More use of alcohol interlocks in vehicles of high-risk drunk drivers
  • Upgrades and improvements to highways

An increased breath alcohol testing campaign by Police in 2023 saw screening levels reach numbers not seen in a decade. More than 2.6 million tests were carried out in 2022/23 which eclipsed the 1.6 million total the previous year.

“That was hugely encouraging – the Police have a target of 3 million tests a year, and we’re hopeful this is the start of an upward trend that will see them hitting that mark every year.

“Breath testing has an important role to play in road safety – a high police presence is a strong deterrent for would-be drunk drivers and a safety net there to catch those who have had too much to drink.”

The number of road deaths in recent years has not reflected the Government’s Road to Zero aspirations of reducing deaths and serious injuries by 40% from 2018 levels by 2030, Dylan says.

“This year will be the halfway point of the Road To Zero strategy and it has struggled to make much progress so far. New Zealand can and should be doing better. If we had the same per capita rate of road deaths as in Australia there would have been less than 250 people killed in New Zealand this year.”

Dylan says a recently published study by the AA Research Foundation showed how upgrading roads can also help Road to Zero get closer to its goal.

The Safety Benefits of New Roadsstudy researchanalysed and compared crash numbers of old and new roads at seven locations where new highways were built. It showed on average there was a 37% drop in deaths and serious injuries on both the new and old roads compared to when there was a single route.

“This research shows the value in new or upgraded roads which have that have been designed for modern traffic conditions and have features such as safety barriers. They have a real impact on the outcomes of crashes.”


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