International News - October 2010

New Zealand Among World's Worst for Road Fatalities

New Zealand road deaths are among the highest in the world per capita, alongside Cambodia, Malaysia, Lithuania and Slovenia, new statistics show. 

Road-fatality figures from 33 countries released by the International Transport Forum (ITF) show New Zealand has the seventh-highest ratio of deaths per billion vehicle kilometres travelled and is the ninth highest in deaths per capita. 

Transport Minister Stephen Joyce said the statistics proved that the road-safety improvements sought in the past decade had not eventuated. 

"None of these results are news to me," he said. 

The ITF data showed New Zealand had 9.1 deaths per billion vehicle kilometres travelled in 2008 – more than twice the lowest rate of 3.9 in Iceland. South Korea had the highest rate of 20.1 deaths. 

Per capita, Kiwi road deaths last year were the ninth highest, with 8.9 deaths for every 100,000 residents. 

This was higher than the figures for the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary and more than double the figures of Norway, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain.
Malaysia had the highest ratio, with 23.8 deaths, while Britain had the lowest at 3.8.
In the two categories, New Zealand was accompanied by countries such as South Korea, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Cambodia, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania and Israel.
Automobile Association motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the association had "high hopes" for the new road-safety strategy. 

"Safer Journeys recognises that drivers will make mistakes, but it's the road or the roadside that determines the outcome of those mistakes. "Cars, roads and roadsides need to be protective," he said. 

Upgrading the country's "unforgiving" road network would make a significant difference in improving road safety, Noon said, as many roads were carrying double the traffic volume they were designed for. 

As the leading cause of crashes, poor observation, including driver distraction, inattention and fatigue, needed to be addressed. 

The acting police roading national manager, Acting Superintendent Rob Morgan, said the figures were "very familiar". 

Many road-safety concerns related to the country's inability to afford costly roading improvements, he said. 

ITF secretary-general Jack Short said the 10 years to 2009 was "a record decade for road safety" as road deaths fell in 30 of 33 countries. In New Zealand, fatalities dropped 2 per cent over the decade. 

Article by Jo Gilbert, the Press

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