Holiday road toll at record low

A record low holiday road toll has been welcomed but more efforts are needed to continue to improve road safety, say police, the Government and the Automobile Association.

Six people died on the roads during the official holiday period which ran from 4pm on Christmas Eve to 6am today - the lowest in more than 50 years.

During the Christmas and New Year period last year 19 people were killed, 65 seriously injured and 335 received minor injuries.

Injury statistics for the 2012/13 holiday period will take several months to finalise.

The lowest road toll recorded previously was 8 in 1959/60.

"This year's holiday toll shows that drivers have been taking responsibility, and focusing when behind the wheel," Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said.

"However, every fatality and serious injury on the road is a tragedy for the families and loved ones of those involved.

"It is important we continue to work hard in 2013 to ensure even fewer suffer the consequences of road death or injury."

AA public affairs spokesman Simon Lambourne said the low figures should be welcomed, but warned against complacency.

"It's still six people that died on our roads," he said.

The holiday road period began at 4pm on Christmas Eve, but a lot of holidaymakers travelled on the three days prior - and three died during that period, he said.

"It's important to put it in perspective. The holiday driving period was 9.6 days long, and it can be as long as 11.6 days, so when you compare it to previous years, it is a shorter than recent years."

And while 307 deaths in 2012 is the second lowest annual road toll in 60 years, it was still higher than the 284 in 2011.

Mr Lambourne said a lot was being done to improve the safety of drivers, cars, and roads, but he admitted: "We've still got a long way to go."

New Zealand Police agreed that while the low road toll was encouraging, six deaths was nothing to celebrate.

"Of course it's fantastic to see the numbers continuing to trend down but as our staff know, that's still six people whose families must be informed of a terrible tragedy," said national manager of road policing, Superintendent Carey Griffiths.

Even though there are more vehicles on the roads than ever before, he expects the road toll to continue to fall.

Mr Griffiths says several agencies have united their efforts under Safer Journeys, the Government's strategy to guide improvements in road safety over 2010 - 2020.

"Police, Ministry of Transport, New Zealand Transport Agency and other road safety partners are in this together," he said.

"We'll be reviewing results so far and working on the next action plan to make our roads even safer this year."

- Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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