Has an increase in reckless driving contributed to a horror start to the 2024 road toll?

28 February 2024

Has an increase in reckless driving contributed to a horror start to the 2024 road toll?

With New Zealand suffering its worst January for road deaths in half a decade, the AA is concerned at a possible increase in reckless behaviour behind the wheel.   

Thirty-five people died in accidents on New Zealand’s roads last month – eclipsing the four previous January totals of 22, 29, 18 and 21. 

Dylan Thomsen, the AA’s road safety spokesperson, says the AA has been concerned with the lack of progress on reducing road deaths in New Zealand and analysed fatal crashes over the Xmas-New Year holiday period for the last few years. 

“Our analysis has raised some real concerns that not only are the numbers of fatal crashes staying high but there appears to be higher levels of reckless behaviour involved in them.” 

The figures for fatal crashes in the two previous Christmas-New Year holiday periods (2021/22 and 2020/21) show at least three-quarters involved alcohol and/or drugs or a vehicle occupant not wearing a seatbelt – and frequently both. 

This is a much higher proportion of that type of reckless behaviour than the 50% the AA Research Foundation found when it analysed the factors involved in 100 fatal crashes in 2017. 






Total Xmas- New Year holiday road deaths) 





Proportion of crashes involving alcohol/drugs or unworn seatbelts 




Data not yet available 


Dylan notes the number of deaths in February has not been out of the ordinary and the current overall road toll is comparable with 2022 which ended with 374 fatalities. 

The proportion of people dying following risky behaviour is a huge concern, Dylan says. 

“We think the MoT urgently needs to do a bigger piece of analysis to understand whether the proportion of fatal crashes involving reckless and extreme behaviour has grown in recent times.  

“Our look at Christmas-New Year holiday periods is a small snapshot of crashes – it may not tell the full story of what is going on, but it is a concerning sign that warrants a wider investigation. If dangerous behaviour is on the rise, authorities need to adjust the way they are policing and communicating road safety as a priority.”  


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