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Safest Year On NZ Roads in Nearly 40 Years

January 1 2001 Media Statement

2001 was the safest year on New Zealand roads in nearly 40 years, despite an horrific number of crashes last month, Transport Minister Mark Gosche said today.

The 2001 toll this morning stood at 452, the lowest since 1964.

“The huge increase in the number of vehicles on the roads in that time make this achievement particularly pleasing. In 1964 we had less than a million vehicles. Today we have more than ever before - 2.6 million.”

The 2001 low beats last year’s record low by 10.

“It seems that we are getting the safety mix basically right. We have more traffic patrols on New Zealand roads than at any time in our history, giving us all a very visible reminder that speed and other offences won’t be tolerated.”

The 183 Highway Patrol cars are part of a $152 million road safety package introduced last year, the first increase in road safety spending in nearly six years. The package also included almost doubling spending on community driver education programmes, more comprehensive breath testing (particularly in high risk rural areas) and tougher enforcement of speed restrictions and seat belt rules.

“That joint approach of education and enforcement is clearly paying off. Average speeds on the open roads are down this year, overall seatbelt wearing figures are at a record high and the police report fewer drunk drivers on the roads.”

Other changes to be implemented this year, including new rules for vehicle safety, should help further reduce the road toll.

“From next April all cars entering the New Zealand fleet will need to have frontal impact systems, which are the most important advance in vehicle safety technology since the seat belt. That change alone should help save about five more lives a year.”

Mr Gosche said that while the reduction in the road toll was cause for celebration, no-one could afford to be complacent.

“This time of year is traditionally the most dangerous on New Zealand roads, and this holiday period has seen some horrendous crashes. The number of deaths so far this holiday period is 21, up from 17 for the same period last year.”

“The onus is on each one of us to take responsibility for our actions and tackle our own bad habits. Otherwise we could be facing a disastrous start to the New Year.”

The official holiday period ends at 6am this Thursday, 3 January 2002.


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