STRONG ARM OF LAW: The holiday period caps a mostly positive year on NSW roads, where the final death toll of 309 was down 24 on the 2013 tally and the equal-lowest figure in 91 years.
NSW police conducted more than a quarter of a million extra random breath tests over the Christmas-New Year holiday period compared to last year as part of a blitz that cut the road toll to historic lows.
830,670 motorists were tested between Friday December 19 and Sunday January 4, with 1273 charged with drink-driving compared to 1209 during the 2013/2014 operation.
There was also an increase in people caught speeding (up 2878 to 14,422) but the overall toll dropped from 11 to 10, despite Operation Safe Arrival running over 17 days compared to 15 days previously.
But a big jump in people detected not wearing their seatbelts over the period – from 1454 to 1881 – and an increase in fatalities related to not wearing seatbelts from 20 to 29 drew the attention of Traffic and Highway Patrol Command chief John Hartley, who noted that generations had grown up with compulsory seatbelt laws.
“It has been proven time and again, that proper use of seatbelts and occupant restraints saves people from being seriously injured or killed in crashes,” he said.
“We teach our children to protect themselves in a car by making sure they have their seatbelt on or are in the correct car seat.
“It’s unfortunate we have had more than 1800 people who did not want to give themselves that same protection during Christmas and New Year.”
The holiday period caps a mostly positive year on NSW roads, where the final death toll of 309 was down 24 on the 2013 tally and the equal-lowest figure in 91 years.
Roads minister Duncan Gay hailed the result, citing record road safety budgets and a swathe of new awareness campaigns as driving the decline.
“When you think our population has grown by more than five million since 1923 and there are now about 4.8 million more vehicles on our roads, it shows how significant this reduction is,” he said.
Centre for Road Safety general manager Marg Prendergast said the toll had dropped by almost 40 per cent in the past decade, since 510 NSW motorists died in 2004.
The statewide fatality rate of 4.1 per 100,000 population is the lowest since records began in 1908, driven by big drops in passenger (43, lowest since 1939) and pedestrian (41, lowest since 1928) deaths.
Fewer young adult deaths and a 35 per cent drop in fatalities from P-plate driver crashes were also welcomed, along with a reduction in motorcyclist and cyclist deaths, but a big increase in deaths of drivers over 70 (up by 16 to 55) was a sad counterpoint.
The explosion in fatalities related to drug-driving – responsible for 11 per cent of deaths, compared to 15 per cent attributed to alcohol – meant the issue would become a major focus for police in 2015.
“We are doing more data analysis and developing a range of initiatives to address drug-driving,” she said.
“We also know from the 2014 data that most fatal crashes occurred on Saturdays with 55 fatalities, which was five more than what was recorded on Saturdays during 2013.”
Despite reductions in speed related and fatigue related fatalities compared with 2013, speed still contributed to 41 per cent of fatalities in 2014 and fatigue was implicated in 17 per cent of fatalities.
NSW is the best-performed state in terms of road safety followed by Queensland, whose annual toll of 223 was the state’s lowest since 1952, and both states have consistently reduced motoring fatalities since 2010 at average annual rates of 6.6 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.
But WA and Tasmania have both recorded increases in their respective annual death tolls with fatal accident rates above 7 per 100,000, and the combined national result puts Australia surprisingly low in global road safety rankings.
The latest report from the OECD’s Joint Transport Research Group reveals 14 countries cut their road tolls by over 50 per cent between 2000 and 2012 with Spain, Portugal and Denmark leading the way with a two-thirds reduction.
The local cumulative fatality reduction of 28 per cent puts it just ahead of Nigeria and the report lumped Australia in with the US as the two countries were the least success was recorded.
Did you notice a strong police presence on our roads over the Christmas break?