Seatbelt deaths a serious problem across New Zealand society – new research

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 25, 2018

Research into those dying in road crashes when not wearing a seatbelt has shown some surprising results.

The AA Research Foundation led a project in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, NZ Police, NZ Transport Agency and ACC to look in depth at 200 deaths where people were not buckled up, and also examine the offence history of people caught not wearing a seatbelt.

One of the major findings was that seatbelt deaths were not restricted to just one group.

“When we analysed the 200 deaths to understand the types of people involved, we found that along with the young, risky drivers that people might expect to feature, the other common groups were people in rural areas, people driving for work, the elderly and tourists,” says AA research manager Simon Douglas.

“The vast majority of people wear their seatbelt, yet up to 30% of vehicle occupant deaths in recent years haven‘t been buckled up. The research aimed to build a much greater understanding of who it was being involved in these crashes.”

Other key findings were: 

  • On average over the last decade, 26% of vehicle occupants who died in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt
  • 83.5% of deaths where someone wasn‘t wearing a seatbelt occurred on rural roads
  • 53.5% of unrestrained deaths involved alcohol
  • 36.5% of unrestrained deaths involved fatigue
  • 58% of people caught by police not wearing a seatbelt have at least one previous seatbelt offence.

“It‘s mystifying that in New Zealand the rate of people dying while not buckled up is much higher than in other countries like Australia,” Douglas says.

“The AA sees solving the seatbelt riddle as a vital part of reducing road deaths. Far too often we are seeing crashes where multiple people are in a car and the ones with seatbelts only suffer bruises and scrapes, while someone who isn‘t buckled up dies.”

The research is a first step in tackling our seatbelt problem and, now that there is a better understanding of the types of people involved, it will help better guide efforts to change their behaviour.

“It won‘t be easy, but we need to all work together to find new ways of reaching the people not wearing seatbelts and getting them to buckle up every time they are in a car,” Douglas says.

The full research report is available online at: