31 Dec 2015

Road toll hits five-year high

4:53 pm on 31 December 2015

The year's road toll has reached a five-year high.

With a few hours to go, 321 people have died on the roads, 27 more than last year, and the most since 2010.

Automobile Association motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said fewer cyclists and pedestrians were killed but many more motorcyclists, drivers and passengers, compared with last year.

Mr Noon there was no conclusive reason for the toll being so high, although one factor might be lower fuel prices when the economy was doing well.

"We all want less people killed on our roads so to have a second straight year of the road toll going up is awful to see," he said.

"The number of deaths and injuries on our roads have dropped a lot from the past but we want that to keep going down and a lot of people right now will be asking questions about why it isn't."

The toll should be brought down to less than 200 within five years, Mr Noon said.

Police national manager of road policing Steve Greally said it was hard to say what was causing the rise, but he put some of the blame on lower fuel costs.

He said he was deeply disappointed with the year's road toll, but that did not mean safety messages were not connecting with people.

He pointed to the road toll in the 1980s, which at its peak neared 800.

"Because we've got better roads, better vehicles, we've got far more intelligent policing, we're hovering around the 300-mark, which is really pleasing."

The AA is calling for more safety barriers on highways, tighter vehicle safety ratings and drink-driving rules and more driver training but admits there's no silver bullet.