Summer driving risky as more take to roads
Summer is the deadly season on New Zealand roads, an analysis of data from injury crashes over the last decade reveals.
It shows the date with the most accidents from 2004 to 2013 was April 9, with 509 injury crashes. The day with the fewest injury crashes, not including the leap year day of February 29, was September 19, with 299.
Analysis of road safety data from the last decade shows more crashes happen between December and April, while August and September are by far the lightest months on the road.
Automobile Association motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said summer was the most dangerous season as more people were on the road.
"There is more driving and people are more active. People are on the move. It is summer and there are longer hours. These are the heavy driving months of the year," he said.
"It may also be that when conditions are really bad then people are very aware that they need to be more cautious. Sometimes when you get that really bright weather people are less cautious and careful."
The trend for summer accidents in New Zealand differs to other countries, where there is often a correlation between short winter days and accidents.
Similar analysis by Global News in Canada showed late December, in the middle of their winter, was the worst period for accidents in Toronto.
The accident rate appeared to correlate with the shorter periods of daylight in the winter months.
Noon said the number of injury crashes each year had been tracking downwards from its peak of about 16,000 in 2007.
In 2013, the number of injury crashes fell below 12,000 for the first time in a decade but a series of crashes in the first quarter of this year has bucked the downward trend.
"April and May were the really bad months this year," he said.
"We have had two very bad months, but it is not out of line with the trend a couple of years back. We were tracking down nicely and we were very happy with last year because it was a reassertion of the trend, but that has changed now."
There were 32 fatalities in April this year, compared to just 17 in April last year, Noon said.
Analysis of the crash data also revealed that Friday was the worst day for total accidents, while Saturday was the worst for fatalities on the road.
New Zealand Transport Agency spokeswoman Lisa Rossiter said one reason for the summer crash spike was that "there is a lot of holidaying going on and visiting drivers from overseas".
New Zealand had double the road toll of other developed countries because of old vehicles and risky roads, she said.
The average car in New Zealand is 13 years old.
"A vehicle of that age doesn't offer any protection to avoid a crash or lessen the outcome," Rossiter said.
"Our roads, by international standards, in some areas are definitely higher risk. Many roads do not offer much protection in the event of a mistake. Our topography often means there is not a lot of room for error."
GRAPHIC: SUMMER DRIVING
- The Press