Road traffic injury deaths and hospitalisations

This section presents statistics on road traffic injury deaths and hospitalisations, by mode of transport. 

Traffic-related deaths and injuries are the main health impact of road transport in New Zealand [1]. The New Zealand Burden of Disease Study found that transport injuries made up about 33% of overall health loss due to all injuries in New Zealand in 2006 [2]. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are more vulnerable road users, as they tend to suffer more severe injuries from collisions. 

The number of traffic deaths increased from 2013 to 2019

In 2019, there were 352 deaths due to traffic injuries. This included 251 vehicle occupant deaths, 56 motorcyclist deaths, 31 pedestrian deaths and 13 cyclist deaths (Figure 1).

The number of traffic deaths has increased steadily since 2013, making 2019 the first year since then to have a noticeably lower toll than the previous year.

Figure 1: Annual road toll, by mode of transport, 1990-2019

Motorcyclists were at much greater risk of injury or death per time spent travelling

In 2015–2018, in terms of deaths per distance travelled, motorcyclists were at a far greater risk of hospitalisation or death than users of other modes of transport (Figure 2). For every million kilometres travelled in this period, motorcyclists were 166 times as likely to be injured and 96 times as likely to die as the result of a crash in contrast to non-motorcyclists.

Consequently, motorcyclists are overrepresented in morbidity statistics. While they only account for around 0.2% of the total distance travelled by all modes of transport, motorcyclists represent 18.5% of all traffic-related deaths in 2015–2018.

Figure 2: Mortality & hospitalisation risk per million kilometres travelled, by mode of transport, 2015-2018

Males had higher mortality rates across all modes of transport

During 2007-2016, males had significantly higher death rates than females for all modes of transport (Figure 3), with a particularly strong contrast between male and female motorcyclists (1.9 vs 0.1 deaths per 100,000 population).

Figure 3: Road traffic injury mortality, by sex and mode of transport, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2007–2016

Māori had higher mortality rates than non-Māori

In 2007–2016, Māori had significantly higher mortality rates for vehicle occupant, motorcyclist and pedestrian injuries than non-Māori.

Compared to non-Māori, the Māori mortality rate was 2.4 times as high (10.9 vs 4.5 per 100,000 population) for vehicle occupant injury, and 2.3 times as high (1.4 vs 0.6 per 100,000 population) for pedestrian injury (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Road traffic injury mortality, by Māori/non-Māori and mode of transport, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2007–2016 

People living in more deprived areas had higher mortality rates of traffic injury 

In 2007–16, the mortality rates for vehicle occupants increased with socioeconomic deprivation, with the most deprived quintiles having higher rates than the least deprived. Motorcyclist mortality was also higher in the most deprived areas, in contrast to the rate in the least deprived. Pedestrian mortality rates were broadly similar across all quintiles (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Road traffic injury mortality, by NZDep2013 quintile and mode of transport, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2007–2016

Large DHB differences in all traffic injury mortality

In 2012–2016, the lowest road traffic injury mortality rates were in the Auckland region (represented by Waitematā, Auckland and Counties Manukau District Health Boards) and the Wellington region (Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley District Health Boards) (Figure 6). 

Figure 6: All traffic injury mortality, by District Health Board, crude rate per 100,000 population, 2012–2016

Road traffic injury hospitalisations increased from 2014 to 2018

In 2018, there were 4,363 hospitalisations for road traffic injuries in New Zealand. This included 2,667 vehicle occupant injuries, 996 motorcyclist injuries, 438 pedestrian injuries and 215 cyclist injuries. The remaining 47 hospitalisations were for other modes of transport.

The hospitalisation rate for all road traffic injuries increased from 2014 to 2018 (Figure 7).  

Figure 7: Road traffic injury hospitalisations by mode of transport, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2001–2018

Māori and Pacific peoples had higher rates of road traffic injury hospitalisations

In 2018, Māori had significantly higher hospitalisation rates for vehicle occupant and motorcyclist injuries than other ethnic groups (Figure 8). Māori and Pacific people also had higher rates of pedestrian injury.

Figure 8: Road traffic injury hospitalisations, by prioritised ethnic group and mode of transport, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2018

Higher rates of traffic injury hospitalisations in more deprived areas

In 2018, hospitalisation rates for vehicle occupant, motorcyclist and pedestrian injuries were higher for people living in more socioeconomically deprived areas (Figure 9). There was a particularly strong contrast in the hospitalisation rates for vehicle occupants between the least and most deprived quintiles.

Figure 9: Road traffic injury hospitalisations, by NZDep2013 quintile and mode of transport, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2018

Large DHB differences in traffic injury hospitalisations

In 2018, Northland District Health Board (DHB) had the highest rates of traffic injury hospitalisations (Figure 10). In comparison, Capital and Coast DHB had the lowest rate.

Figure 10: Road traffic injury hospitalisations by DHB, age-standardised rate per 100,000 population, 2018

Information about the data

Road traffic injury mortality

Source: 

  • New Zealand road toll, Ministry of Transport
  • New Zealand Mortality Collection, Ministry of Health
  • New Zealand Household Travel Survey, Ministry of Transport. 

Definition: The number and rate of road traffic injury hospitalisations, by mode of transport.  ‘All traffic injuries’ includes occupant injury (injury of driver or passenger of three or four-wheeled motor vehicles), motorcyclist injury, pedestrian injury, cyclist injury, other injury and unspecified injury.

For more information about this indicator, see our metadata sheet. For more information on the annual road toll, visit the Ministry of Transport's webpage on the Road toll.

Road traffic injury hospitalisations

Source:

  • National Minimum Dataset (NMDS), Ministry of Health

Definition: The number and rate of road traffic injury hospitalisations, by mode of transport.  ‘All traffic injuries’ includes occupant injury (injury of driver or passenger of three or four-wheeled motor vehicles), motorcyclist injury, pedestrian injury, cyclist injury, other injury and unspecified injury.

For more information, see the metadata sheets in the download box. 

References

1. Briggs, D, Mason, K, Borman, B. 2016. Rapid assessment of environmental health impacts for policy support: The example of road transport in New ZealandInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13: 61.

2. Ministry of Health and ACC. 2013. Injury-related Health Loss: A report from the New Zealand Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2006–2016. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 

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