Health burden of road transport

This section estimates the health burden of road transport in New Zealand, based on a recent study carried out by our team (Briggs et al, 2016). 

Road transport accounted for 650 deaths in 2012

Road transport was estimated to be responsible for 650 deaths in New Zealand in 2012.  These deaths included:
- 308 deaths due to traffic crashes
- 218 deaths due to particulate matter (PM10)
- 65 deaths due to nitrogen dioxide exposure
- 59 deaths due to noise pollution.

Additionally, an estimated 40 deaths were avoided through active transport (walking or cycling to work), via increased physical activity.  

Cars were responsible for about 52% of deaths attributable to road transport.  Heavy goods vehicles (6% of vehicle kilometres travelled, vkt) accounted for 21% of deaths. Motorcycles (1% of vkt) were implicated in nearly 8% of deaths.

For more information, read the full journal article

Citation 

Briggs, D., Mason, K., Borman, B. (2016). Rapid Assessment of Environmental Health Impacts for Policy Support: The Example of Road Transport in New Zealand. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,2016; 13(1): 61.

Abstract

An integrated environmental health impact assessment of road transport in New Zealand was carried out, using a rapid assessment. The disease and injury burden was assessed from traffic-related accidents, air pollution, noise and physical (in)activity, and impacts attributed back to modal source. 

In total, road transport was found to be responsible for 650 deaths in 2012 (2.1% of annual mortality): 308 from traffic accidents, 283 as a result of air pollution, and 59 from noise. Together with morbidity, these represent a total burden of disease of 26,610 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). An estimated 40 deaths and 1874 DALYs were avoided through active transport.

Cars are responsible for about 52% of attributable deaths, but heavy good vehicles (6% of vehicle kilometres travelled, vkt) accounted for 21% of deaths. Motorcycles (1 percent of vkt) are implicated in nearly 8% of deaths.

Overall impacts of traffic-related air pollution and noise are low compared to other developed countries, but road accident rates are high.

Results highlight the need for policies targeted at road accidents, and especially at heavy good vehicles and motorcycles, along with more general action to reduce the reliance on private road transport. The study also provides a framework for national indicator development.