Too early to panic over latest increase in road toll

Between 2014 and 2016, the New Zealand road toll increased by 12 percent. We’re also not alone, with the Ministry of Transport listing New Zealand among 19 other OECD countries that have experienced an increase in fatalities.

To try to understand the reasons behind this upward trend, the Ministry of Transport commissioned an independent analysis of the road toll that has just been released. However, no dramatic findings emerged. The report, by Deloitte, pointed to the increase in kilometres travelled and the increased chance of a crash resulting in death or injury. It also highlighted the disproportionate increase in motorcycle accidents.

But its key messages gave weight to the ongoing conundrum over what has caused the toll to head upwards.

“The factors that cause crashes and cause injuries are many and varied. For this reason, it is difficult to understand all the variation in road trauma. In this study, about a third of the short-term variation could not be explained by the factors investigated.

We have more cars on the road.  There are more hours spent on the road.  We have more recent immigrants who have not learned to drive here on our roads.  We have older and unsafer cars phasing out.  We have better roads.  Our speeding is down compared to a few decades ago.  As is our drink-driving.

If you look at the graph, the trend is still clearly down.  And if you normalise that into population growth or cars on the road or hours spent on the road, what you are left with is something so statistically insignificant, it defies a clear explanation.   ’cause… shit happens.

Even if they forbade people from driving altogether the road toll would still not be zero because somewhere, someone, would have a heart attack while sitting in a car in the garage.  Or the car crushes a mechanic as it comes off the jack.

We all know the big factors.  Excessive speed.  Alcohol or drug use.   Fatigue.  Distraction.

Beyond that, you can’t compensate for the “shit happens” factor.  That’s why they are called accidents.




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