Police say they are disappointed at this year's provisional road death number of 422, which is an increase of 29 from the 40-year low of 393 in 2006.
The current holiday deaths stand at 10 (as at 9am on 1 December), already above the nine seen last year. There is another day to go until the end of the official holiday period which ends at 6am on 3 January.
Road death numbers have trended down since the high of 843 in 1973, to 795 in 1987 and have plateaued around the 400 mark since 2002. Death rates have plunged over the last 20 years from 3.9 deaths per 10,000 vehicles in 1987 to 1.3 in 2007, a decrease of 67%.
The Operations Manager for Road Policing at Police National Headquarters, Inspector Carey Griffiths, said that most of the deaths were preventable if motorists followed the basic rules.
"A preliminary analysis shows that driving too fast for the conditions and drink-driving were the two biggest factors in fatal crashes last year, with excessive speed a factor in 30 percent and drink-driving contributing to 30 percent," he said.
"This year alone, 25% of vehicle occupants killed were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash and Police estimate at least 22 lives would have been saved by wearing one."
A comparison with 2006 revealed significant increases in deaths in Canterbury (55, with 34 last year), Waikato (90, with 65 last year) and Manawatu/Wanganui (41, with 31 last year). Auckland showed a significant decrease (61, with 81 last year) along with Wellington (15, with 32 last year).
Police say that their focus for 2008 will be on the "Fatal Five" causes of crashes, namely: speed, alcohol and drugs, failure to wear restraints, dangerous and careless driving and high risk drivers.
For more information:
Official Road Death Statistics are held by the Ministry of Transport.
Police national media pager: 026 10 10 82