If there's one resolution that everyone should be making it is that they will do all they can to reduce the road toll, which has taken a mysterious reversal over the past five years.

The total in 2013 was 253, the lowest in 60 years and a mere 29 per cent of the highest, ever, of 843 posted in 1973.

As we roll into a another year, it is with the realisation that the toll for 2018, provisionally 380, will be 50 per cent up on that 2013 low, and the highest in the past decade. In contrast, the holiday road toll, eight at yesterday, could be equal to the lowest for Christmas-New Year since such statistics were first kept.

According to Ministry of Transport figures, the road toll first passed 100 when 125 deaths were recorded in 1925, and it was just five years later that it passed 200 — 246 in 1930.
Over the 5-6 years, the number of vehicles in New Zealand had more than doubled, from about 70,000 to over 150,000.


The toll passed 300 with 313 in 1953, and 11 years later the milestone of 400 was passed with 428 in 1964, beginning, like so many vehicles, to accelerate out of control.

It was the very next year that 500 was passed with 559 deaths in 1965, 600 was passed with 655 in 1970, 700 was passed with 713 in 1972, and just the next year that New Zealand set its tragic record. The toll had more than doubled in 10 years.

If we're going for the record, there is only one that is worth going for, albeit unlikely to be achieved and impossible to beat. It's the big-fat Zero prior to the advent of the automobile.

Cars were first imported in 1898, the first fatality in New Zealand said to have involved a motor vehicle was when Claude Smith was thrown from his horse-drawn trap when the animal was startled by an oncoming car in Christchurch in 1902, a motorcyclist died in an incident with a train in Dunedin in 1905, and a South Canterbury farmer's wife died when the car she was driving crashed in 1906.

The most common contributing factors have changed over the 120 years since William McLean imported his Benz automobiles in 1898 and the first fatalities of the 20th century, whether it be speeds, alcohol (including late-night closing at pubs which were built with carparks the size of football fields), and the increasing number of vehicles on the roads. Add to them any number of distractions, including cellphones, drinking coffee on-the-go or munching takeaways at the wheel.

That leads to the one constant. The greater the number of vehicles on the road the greater the risk, and the less room for error.

The simple fact is that when ever there is a fatality on New Zealand roads, it will be because someone, somehow, somewhere, has made a mistake.