There were 341 road fatalities in 2023, down from 372 in 2022. Nineteen people died on AoNZ roads over the Christmas-New Year holiday period (which ran from 4pm on 22 December 2023 to 6am on 3 January 2024), compared with 21 over the same period last year. 

“There are signs the country is back on the right path towards a “road to zero” and we want to see that trend continue this year and beyond,” said Dr Chris Wakeman, chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ AoNZ Trauma Committee.

Road deaths rose significantly in 2022 compared to the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 where travel into and around the country was restricted. The increase was a blow for the Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency Road to Zero campaign, which ultimately aims to reduce road deaths to zero.

Dr Wakeman said: “It’s been a tough few years as we’ve navigated COVID-19 and the post-pandemic landscape and a lot of the difficulties are things we can’t control. Road deaths aren’t one of them. As drivers, we have it within our power to keep our roads, and thus our communities, safe.”

Of the 2500 New Zealanders who suffer a major trauma each year, half are injured or killed by road or traffic incidents, including car, motorcycle, pedestrian and e-scooter crashes.

“It’s our number one source of severe trauma in Aotearoa New Zealand and it is entirely preventable,” Dr Wakeman said.

He said factors like alcohol, fatigue and speed all contribute to road injuries and fatalities.

“While there is a particular focus on road safety over the Christmas-New Year period, Kiwis die on New Zealand roads all year round. Remember that the next time you get behind the wheel of a car.”

Dr Wakeman is a general, colorectal and trauma surgeon based in Christchurch Hospital and a senior lecturer at the University of Otago Medical School in Christchurch.