Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the 2009 road toll shows the need for all New Zealanders to continue to take responsibility for safety on our roads.
"While the toll for the year is lower than expected, this result remains a tragedy for every family who has lost loved ones and for those dealing with the effects of serious injuries sustained as a result of a road crash," says Mr Joyce.
The 2009 preliminary road toll of 384 compares to 365 deaths in 2008 and 421 in 2007. The number was trending towards more than 400 for the year, until October, November and December all recorded the lowest number of deaths since monthly records began in 1965.
"It's too early to say just why we have seen an improvement over this last quarter", Mr Joyce says.
"However road safety has been top-of-mind with new laws on cellphone use, drugged driving, and illegal street racing. If that publicity has helped remind people of the responsibility they take on when they drive, then that's positive."
Mr Joyce says that the number of serious injuries caused in road crashes remained a big concern.
"In the 12 months from 1 July 2008 to June 30 2009 police reported just over 2500 people seriously injured as a results of road crashes.
"We have seen little progress in reducing the number of serious injuries as a result of road crashes in the last ten years. That's another big task ahead of us."
The government is working to improve road safety through Safer Journeys, a strategy to guide New Zealand to 2020.
"Safer Journeys will set out some immediate actions aimed at reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roads," says Mr Joyce.
The strategy is planned for release in February, with initial actions implemented over the next year or two.
"In the meantime can I urge people to drive carefully as they return from their Christmas holidays. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and focus on our driving when on the road."