Every road death costs $4.54m

Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014

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Losing a loved one on the roads in New Zealand comes with an increasing price tag, along with the emotional cost.

The Ministry of Transport has put the cost of each road death at $4.5 million, amid a flurry of holiday crashes.

The Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries Report shows the average social cost of a single fatal road crash is now up to $4.54m, while a crash involving serious injuries was $473,600.

On average in 2012, one person died every 28 hours on the road.

Social costs take into account both financial and non-financial costs incurred as a result of a crash based on the year it happened, including loss of life and quality, loss of output, medical, property damage, legal and court costs.

Ongoing costs are also factored in.

Ministry chief executive Martin Matthews said crashes had "huge downstream effects".

"These social costings are just one more way of reminding people of the impact road crashes are having on our society," he said.

The ministry put the rise in social costs down to an 8 per cent increase in the road toll from 2011 to 2012, when the costs were last calculated.

The road toll had since fallen. There were 254 deaths in 2013, the lowest in 60 years and down from 308 in 2012 and 284 in 2011.

But Labour's transport spokeswoman Darien Fenton said while this was something to be celebrated, serious injuries needed to be included in these statistics.

"For every death reported, there are almost 10 times as many people who are seriously injured and 30 times as many who receive minor injuries.

"Serious injuries include spinal and brain injury, fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings and severe lacerations requiring hospital admission and on-going care."

The road toll has dropped steadily since 1990, when 729 people died on the road. An analysis commissioned by the ministry points towards improvements in vehicle safety and a drop in motorcycling as the biggest factors in this fall.

Investment in roading improvements and changes in driver behaviour, particularly around drink driving and speeding had also contributed.

The total annual social cost of all road crashes for 2012 is estimated at $3.84 billion.

THE CAUSES

Analysis of the factors behind crashes in 2012 showed alcohol and speed continue to be the major contributors.

Of the 308 fatalities in 2012: 31 per cent involved alcohol or drug use 25 per cent involved speeding

13 per cent were caused by fatigued drivers

Inattention amounted to 12 per cent. 

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- The Dominion Post

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