2013 on track for a low road toll

22:34, Dec 30 2013

Only a large tragedy can stop New Zealand recording its lowest annual road toll since reliable records began.

This is despite the Christmas-New Year holiday road toll now equalling last year's at six, with three days to go.

So far, 254 people have died on New Zealand roads this year, the most-recent being a motorcyclist who died after crashing off State Highway 1 near Bulls in the Rangitikei district early today.

This year's official holiday period began at 4pm on Christmas Eve and ends at 6am on Friday.

Last year's holiday toll of six was the lowest since reliable records began.

But as we count down to the year's end at midnight tonight, New Zealand is on track to record its lowest annual road toll since 1950 when the total was 232. In the past six decades, the next-lowest was 284 in 2011.

Automobile Association motoring general manager Mike Noon said New Zealand roads were the safest they had ever been but the low death toll was not due to any one change.

"Vehicle safety is improving dramatically and that's a part of it," he said.

"There has been some fantastic work done to improve the quality of high-risk roads and roadsides, and that's a part of it.

"People's attitudes to road safety and the way they drive have also changed for the better, and that's a part of it. All of these together are helping to bring down our road toll."

The biggest improvements were in fewer passenger and motorcyclist deaths, as well as fewer deaths for 25- to 39-year-olds.

Injuries from crashes, the number of drunk drivers, and the number of young drivers involved in fatal and serious crashes were also dropping, he said.

"What this continues to show is that deaths and injuries on our roads are not inevitable," Noon said.

"On a per-capita basis we are now almost at the same rate of road deaths as Australia."