Road toll hits low, Canty up

JOANNE BENNETT AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 05:00 02/01/2014

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Police are hailing a provisional road toll for 2013 which is the lowest by a significant margin in more than 60 years.

Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff said the low number of 254 deaths reflected a partnership approach to road safety.

The toll is 30 lower than the 284 deaths in 2011, at the time the lowest since 1950, when 232 deaths were recorded.

However, the toll for the Canterbury region was well up on 2012, from 33 to 50, making it the region with the highest number of fatalities in New Zealand.

The final toll for South Canterbury has not been confirmed but the region suffered a traumatic period in June and July, with three road fatalities, in separate incidents, in a week.

"The last recorded road death was that of Korean tourist Taewook Kim, 26, who died in a crash at Twizel on November 30.

Reflecting on the low national toll, Mr Cliff said there was " no one reason this 60-year low figure has occurred - it is the result of many factors including better legislation, enhanced enforcement, safer vehicles and better road design".

"It also reflects the fact that the majority of Kiwi drivers get the message about speed, alcohol and seatbelts, which police and our road safety partners have been relentlessly talking about in recent years."

He said it was pleasing to note that "since the November launch of the high-profile multi-agency Safer Summer campaign focusing on speed and alcohol, the lowest December road toll since 1965 has been achieved with 23 fatalities in December".

"There is no room for complacency - police want fewer crashes, fatalities and serious injuries in 2014."

The low toll will be followed up by hi-tech efforts to drive it even lower. Cars with sensors that control their speed and following distance, and that ensure they stay in their lane, are all part of "transformational" technology being looked at during the next four years.

A government action plan entitled Intelligent Transport System even discusses the possibility of fully automated vehicles that do not need a driver.

"Cars of the future may be so well equipped that they are almost impossible to crash," Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee writes in the foreword to the plan.

Ministry of Transport land transport manager Leo Mortimer said 2013's low toll was thanks to better driver attitudes, vehicles and roads, as well as tighter restrictions for younger drivers.

Lowering future tolls would mean focusing harder on those factors, while advances in technology would form "a real major part of road safety advancements".

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Computers inside cars and roads so that they could "talk to each other", and cars that automatically stayed within lanes were two technologies that were already emerging.

"[In future] the car will be able to determine the speed of the vehicle," Mr Mortimer said.

- The Timaru Herald

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