Last year New Zealand recorded its second lowest road toll in 50 years, with the deaths of young people significantly stemmed, police say.

At midnight, the provisional road toll stood at 306 - slightly higher than the previous year's record low of 284 deaths.

Police figures showed fewer drivers were dying on the roads, dropping from 150 in 2011 to 135 last year.

Despite this, the number of fatal crashes had increased, up from 259 in 2011 to 265 last year.


National manager of Road Policing Superintendent Carey Griffiths said overall figures showed a downward trend.

"While low results are to be celebrated, this is still too many New Zealanders needlessly dying," he said.

A breakdown also showed more passengers died - from 61 in 2011 to 80 in the past year.

"Of particular note is the reduced fatalities in the 15-24 year-old age group last year, which at 65 was significantly lower than 82 in 2011," Mr Griffiths said.

"This is the lowest since records were kept on age groups.

"Police and our road safety partners have put a significant focus on young drivers, with an increased driving age and a zero blood alcohol limit."

It is encouraging to see a correlating reduction in deaths, he said.

Last night, the death of a 29-year-old man who was hit by a taxi whilst walking in Levin took the holiday road toll to five.


The first death for the period, which started at 4pm on Christmas Eve and will finish at 6am on Thursday, was on Christmas day.

Chinese national Rongmei Wang was killed in a two-car collision in Hamilton. On Boxing Day, father-of-one Shane Curtis Tosh, 24, died when his Honda left the Dacre-Lorneville road north of Invercargill. Hours after this, a 58-year old Taumaranui man died when his car careered down a bank.

And on Friday, a 22-year-old man was killed at Ngapara, near Oamaru when he lost control of his car, which slammed into a tree.

Mr Griffiths urged people to be extra careful on the road over the summer.

"In 2011, 19 people lost their lives over the holiday break.

"We still see too many deaths where passengers get into cars with drunk drivers, particularly in our rural communities.

"If you're going out socialising, look after your mates, make transport arrangements early and have a designated driver," he said.

Police figures show the highest holiday road toll was 35 in 1981/82, and the lowest was nine in 2006/07.