Parties clash over rising road toll

A cross by the side of the road marks a fatal crash
Labour transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney says National's 'Safer Journeys' road safety strategy needs to be looked at (file)

The Government says it's disappointing the road toll has risen for a third year in a row because it's committed to making roads safer.

But Labour says its strategy needs an urgent review.

The provisional road toll for 2016 stands at 326, slightly higher than the 319 who died in 2015.

In 2016:

  • 24 percent of fatal crashes involved excessive speed for the conditions
  • 40 percent were related to drugs and alcohol
  • not wearing seatbelts contributed to the deaths of 39 percent of drivers and 42 percent of passengers.

Associate Transport Minister David Bennett says while the stats can paint a simple picture, the reasons why more people are being killed or injured on the road are "complex".

"But whatever the reason, the road toll remains too high, and the increase over the last three years is disappointing."

Mr Bennett says the Government is committed to making the country's roads better. But Labour transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney says National's 'Safer Journeys' road safety strategy needs to be looked at in light of the road toll increasing over the past three years.

Ministry of Transport figures show the road toll in 2013 and 2014 at 253 and 293 respectively. However, the 2013 figure was a major drop from the 308 in 2012.

Ms Moroney says Transport Minister Simon Bridges needs to ask "tough questions" about why New Zealand is bucking the international trend of declining road deaths.

"The Government has taken $15m in new motorcycle safety levies from motorcyclists since 2010 and yet the number of motorcyclists killed continues to climb.

"It is scandalous that just $3m of that money collected from motorcyclists had been spent on safety initiatives by July 2016 - what has happened to the rest? Meanwhile, the carnage continues."

In late December, police said around a third of the holiday road toll so far were motorcyclists.

Ms Moroney says reducing the amount of road policing coupled with increased traffic volumes and less Government spending on road maintenance are "obvious threats" to safety.

Mr Bennett says the Government is "continually investing" in things such as median barriers, rumble strips and wide shoulders "as well as in road safety enforcement, advertising, and education campaigns".

The minister has also commissioned research to "better understand the factors influencing the road toll".