Professor Don Aitkin, chairman of the NRMA/ACT Road Safety Trust. Photo: Graham Tidy
Canberra has recorded its second lowest annual road toll since 1959, just two years after recording its lowest road toll, in what police hope is a continuing trend for the capital's road safety record.
Seven people died on the territory's roads last year, down from 12 in 2012. Six people were killed in 2011, which was the ACT's best year on record for road deaths.
ACT Policing's top traffic officer, Sergeant Rod Anderson, said there was hope the two low tolls in 2011 and last year were an indication that Canberra drivers were adopting more safety-conscious attitudes on the roads.
"There is no magic wand for preventing tragic deaths on our roads. At the end of the day it all comes down to driver attitudes behind the wheel," he said.
"So many factors contributed to last year's low road toll, including increased driver awareness, increased police patrols targeting traffic law enforcement, joint ACT government and ACT Policing road safety campaigns and the outstanding work that our ambulance services do at the scene of road collisions."
NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust chairman Don Aitkin said the result last year was a good one, but agreed with Sergeant Anderson's assessment that seven fatalities was still seven too many.
Professor Aitkin warned the small size of the jurisdiction meant large statistical swings were common, and counting deaths over calendar years could be an arbitrary measure of genuine road safety.
"We shouldn't be complacent about this at all,'' he said. It had been a good year, and ''there's a fair amount of luck in it, and that's wonderful,".
He said if it presaged more years with only six or seven deaths that would be fantastic, ''but I don't believe it".
Professor Aitkin said technology meant roads were becoming better and cars safer every year, but work needed to continue on developing a culture of driver awareness and road safety.
He also pointed out the figure didn't include Canberra drivers killed interstate, which would give a fuller picture of the state of road safety culture among the territory's motorists.
The most recent death on Canberra's roads occurred on Christmas night when a 22-year-old learner rider was thrown from his motorcycle after he hit a traffic island at an intersection in Lyneham.
It was the second motorcycle-related death for the year; a pillion passenger was killed near Cotter Campground in March.
Over the past 10 years motorcyclists have accounted for about 25 per cent of deaths on ACT's roads.
Sergeant Anderson said a strong police presence on the roads would continue through the holiday season, and warned drivers against speeding, drink and drug driving, using mobile phones, and failing to wear seatbelts.
"Everyone has the right to travel on the roads safely. ACT Policing will continue its strong enforcement of our road laws, and will accept no excuses for any actions which jeopardise other people's lives," he said.
Over the border, NSW also recorded one of its lowest road tolls on record, with 339 deaths last year compared to 369 in 2012.
It was the lowest number of deaths on the state's roads since 1924, and down more than one-third from a decade ago.
The fall in fatalities was aided by fewer passenger and pedestrian deaths. However, there was a jump in deaths of motorcyclists from 61 in 2012 to 71 last year, and the number of cyclists killed on the road doubled to 14.
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay acknowledged the drop in fatalities, but said drivers needed to ensure safety was their top priority when on the road.
"While fewer fatalities is encouraging, that still means 339 people do not get to spend the new year with friends and family, and their loss will be felt by everyone they knew as we start 2014."