Road toll lowest since 1950

The number of people killed on New Zealand's roads this year is the lowest since 1950.

The annual road toll of 254 was a 17 per cent reduction on the previous year, the Automobile Association (AA) said.

"This is the lowest number of people killed in road crashes since 232 deaths in 1950," AA general manager of motoring affairs Mike Noon said.

The toll has dropped below 300 only one other time in the last 60 years - in 2011.

"When you look at the number of people using the roading network in modern New Zealand, our roads are the safest they have ever been," he said.

Passenger deaths were down more than 40 per cent from 2012, and there was an 18 per cent drop in motorcycle fatalities.

However, the record low has been tarnished by the Christmas period road toll, which at six already equals the total for last year's entire holiday period.

The Christmas-New Year holiday period started at 4pm on Christmas Eve and ends at 6am on January 3.

"We've still got three more days to go, so we're not doing too good," Mr Noon said.

The holiday season hadn't seen as many drink-driving incidents, but more everyday people were making mistakes like not wearing seatbelts, he said.

Assistant Commissioner for Road Policing Dave Cliff said raising the driving age had helped lower the annual toll considerably, as well as improvements to roads, safety campaigns and new features like airbags.

"If you think back to the 1980s where there was 873 people killed in crashes [in one year] compared with the population at the point, we've come an incredibly long way to get the numbers down to where they are."

However, it was always "with regret" that 254 lives had been lost, and about 2800 people were hospitalised with serious injuries every year, he said.

"It's always great to see the number reducing [but] there's still an awful lot of trauma out on the roads."

Historical Christmas/New Year holiday period casualties

2013/14 - 6 dead 

2012/13 - 6

2011/12 - 19

2010/11 - 12

2009/10 - 13

2008/09 - 25

2007/08 - 18

2006/07 - 9

2005/06 - 22

2004/05 - 11

Source: Ministry of Transport

2013 road toll - the numbers

Passenger deaths dropped 41 per cent from 2012

Motorcyclist deaths fell 18 per cent

Deaths among 25- to 39-year-olds dropped by 38 per cent

The biggest reductions were in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Waikato, Manawatu/Wanganui and Southland.

- Cassandra Mason of APNZ

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