New Zealand has been praised at a global forum for slashing its road toll last year, after the ignomy of edging up an international hit parade of carnage in 2012.

The OECD's International Transport Forum heard last night how New Zealand was among nine countries to have reduced its road deaths by more than 10 per cent in the latest roll call of countries represented at an annual ministerial summit in Leipzig, eastern Germany.

New Zealand's toll of just 254 deaths last year was 17.5 per cent lower than 2012's tally of 308 lives lost on our roads.

But the most recent international ranking of countries for road deaths was for 2012, when an 8.4 per cent rise in the road toll put us in 14th place among 37 countries for reporting 6.9 deaths for every 100,000 residents.


That was up from 17th place in 2011, when the figure was 6.5 deaths. New Zealand still has a long way to go to catch up with five European countries to have reduced their death tolls to three or fewer for every 100,000 residents in 2012. Britain and Iceland took top honours with 2.8 deaths, followed closely by Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

At the bottom of the class was Malaysia, with 23.6 deaths per 100,000 people, although countries such as China, Indonesia and India with big road safety challenges were not among those surveyed.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, is addressing this week's summit as New Zealand prepares to take over presidency of the 54-member transport forum from France for a 12-month term next year.

Mr Brownlee and the Ministry of Transport hope to take advantage of the role to widen the scope of the forum by introducing more of an aviation and maritime focus to next year's conference, even though it will be held again in Germany, to reflect New Zealand's dependence on long-range trade routes.

The International Transport Forum heard that the annual road death toll among countries in its data base fell by almost 40 per cent from 2000 to 2012 - representing 45,000 fewer lives lost each year.

But although deaths of vehicle occupants fell 50 per cent, pedestrian fatalities decreased by only 34 per cent, compared with a 31 per cent drop for cyclists and only 17 per cent for motorbike riders.

That still leaves 1.3 million people dying on the planet's roads annually, and the organisation fears the figure will soar to almost 2 million by 2020 given rising tolls in emerging economies, unless far stronger action is taken to foster and enforce safety.

As for New Zealand's performance it is slipping this year, with 115 road deaths between January 1 and Wednesday, compared with just 97 for the equivalent period of last year.