Deaths and injuries
In 2007, 422 people died and 16,013 people were injured in road accidents in New Zealand. In 2008 the number of deaths dropped to 366, probably because high petrol prices reduced road traffic. Between 2011 and 2020 the average annual death toll was 321.
New Zealand’s worst road accident was in 1963 when a bus ran off the road after its brakes failed – 15 people died.
Governments measure the ‘social cost’ of road accidents, including the cost of medical treatments and damage to property, and legal and court fees. In 2006 the estimated cost of road accidents was $3.5 billion.
From the days of horse-drawn vehicles, people have died and been injured on the roads. When cars were introduced more accidents happened.
Throughout the 20th century cars became more powerful and faster, and the number of accidents rose. In 1973 there was the highest ever road toll: 843 died. Large numbers of people were driving. The speed limit had increased, and high-speed crashes caused more serious damage and injuries. Alcohol was a factor in many accidents.
Accident numbers began to come down as:
- there were tougher laws about drinking and driving
- police patrolled the roads more strictly
- seat belts became compulsory
- people were taught about road safety
- road design improved
- cars were designed to be safer.
The government is trying to reduce the number of road accidents.