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The country’s road toll has largely been in decline since 1987.

The number of crashes on New Zealand roads has been in the spotlight again, after a Courier article last week highlighted the request from two Timaru drivers to bring back traffic cops.

Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin told The Courier last week that a return of traffic officers, separate from the police, would be going back to scheme that had not been “successful previously”.

“At the moment it’s the best system. It’s definitely better than the old ministry days.”

The Ministry of Transport traffic officers merged with the police in 1992.

Annual road toll data from the ministry showed the worst year for fatal crashes was 1987, when 795 people were killed on New Zealand’s roads.

While deaths on roads fluctuated between 1987 and 1990, by the early 2000s there had been an almost continuous decrease in road deaths in the past decade (apart from 1995 which recorded 582 deaths compared with 580 the year before).

By 2002, the road toll had dropped to 405 deaths. While fatal crash numbers fluctuated over the years since, the annual toll has stayed within 250-390 deaths barring the 2007 tally of 421.

The lowest road toll on New Zealand roads since 1985 was in 2013, when 253 road users died.

However, the toll has been increasing since then, with 293 deaths in 2014, 319 in 2015 and 327 last year.