DEATH rates on the North’s roads have fallen to their lowest level since records began.
The 48 fatalities last year compares to the peak of 372 four decades ago.
The trend has been steadily downward in the last four decades, with the annual total dropping below 100 for the first time in 2010.
In 1931, the first year statistics were recorded, 114 people died in road crashes.
In the last 80 years, 14,570 people have lost their lives, with around 75,000 suffering serious injury.
Stormont environment minister Alex Attwood insisted the ultimate goal should be zero deaths.
He said: "2012 has been an important milestone for road safety in Northern Ireland, but there are still 48 families who have lost a family member over the last 52 weeks."
"I extend sympathy to those families and friends who lost loved ones through road tragedy.
"In a week that has seen the death of a toddler in Dundonald; I know how painful the loss of each person will have been over the last year.
"This is the lowest death toll on record.
"The main causes of collisions continue to be speeding, drink driving and driver, rider and pedestrian carelessness.
"Many more men than women are killed.
"Child fatalities have increased in 2012 - five children died in 2012, compared to two in 2011."
Mr Attwood attributed the decrease in overall deaths to more responsible driving, the life-saving work of doctors and emergency services, better roads and stronger awareness campaigns.
"The next horizon is moving towards a vision of zero fatalities," he said.
"This is some time off - but if we can move from hundreds to dozens of deaths a year, can we not move further?
"A zero ambition would require radical and bold action to deal with those issues and would include measures that I am already working towards - a new drink-drive regime, a new driver training, testing and post-test regime, all Ireland recognition of penalty points are examples."
He added: "I continue to urge road users to pay attention, expect the unexpected, slow down, always wear your seatbelt and never ever drink or take drugs and drive.
"By doing so - here and across the island - lives are saved."
The PSNI's head of operations branch, Superintendent Mark Purdon, said: "One death is one too many and road safety remains and will remain a priority for the police throughout 2013.
"Although we saw a decrease in the number of road deaths in 2012 to the lowest level ever recorded in Northern Ireland, we can take little comfort in the fact that 48 people lost their lives on our roads.
"The pain of these avoidable deaths has touched family, friends and communities right across Northern Ireland and beyond.
"Each one of these victims represents a tragic loss for individual families and friends.
"We will be working hard to save more lives on our roads and prevent serious injuries.
"We are all responsible for road safety and today I am asking all drivers, passengers and pedestrians to help save lives in 2013."