2017 road toll worst in seven years

The road toll has soared to its highest level in eight years and police say we need to do better.

By midnight the annual road toll provisionally stood at 380 deaths after two more people died in crashes yesterday.

It is just four short of the highest toll since 2009 when 384 people died.

A man died in hospital after a car rolled and hit a fence on Keyte St in Whangarei yesterday morning.

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The final road death for the year happened in a crash on the Appleby Highway in Tasman just after 9pm when a car and ute collided.

The death toll continued to climb for the fourth year running, jumping a whopping 53 more than last year – or one person a week – when 327 were killed on our roads.

Within two hours of the New Year, a smash on a bridge in the Bay of Plenty had already claimed its first victim. Police say a 69-year-old man died in a crash when two vehicles collided on the Maungatapu Bridge on State Highway 29A at 2.15am.

Today Road Policing assistant commissioner Sandra Venables said with more people losing their lives on our roads than in any other year since 2010 drivers everywhere needed to drastically improve their driving.

“Deaths and injuries on our roads have absolutely devastating impacts on families and communities,” she said.

“There were a lot of people who missed spending Christmas and New Year’s with their loved ones. They are grieving when they should be making memories.

“There is a still a lot of holiday left so please let’s try to do better.”

With so many more people on our roads right now it was important everyone was more cautious and aware when driving or riding, she said.

She said the New Zealand Police remained committed to reducing death and injury on our roads but could not do it alone and needed everyone’s help to keep roads safe.

“So please, when you’re in your car take care – drive to the conditions, wear your seatbelt, take breaks, don’t drive after drinking or taking drugs, and put your phone away. A text message or phone call is not worth your life.”

Venables asked motorists to be patient and courteous with each other on the roads.

“We’re all just trying to get where we’re going. So let’s work together and do our best to make sure we all get there safely.”

Today Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said the large number of deaths of the road was “unacceptable”.

“It is simply shocking to see so many people die on our roads. We know every one of these deaths has left a huge hole in the lives of family and friends,” said Genter.

“The number of people dying on our roads has continued to increase over the past four years. Making our roads safer will be a major priority for the Government in 2018.”

She said the level of safety on many rural roads and even urban streets simply wasn’t good enough.

“People make mistakes, but on too many of our roads a momentary distraction or taking a corner too fast can be fatal.”

Genter said the Government was committing to prioritising funding for road safety improvements across the country. There would also be a road safety summit early in the year.

“This government will invest to make our roads much safer, so that when people make mistakes lives aren’t lost.”

The Automobile Association said it was sad and perplexed by the growing toll.

Spokesperson Dylan Thomsen said along with the high toll there were likely to have been more than 14,000 people injured in crashes.

Those aged between 15 and 30 continued to be over-represented.

“It’s hard to understand all the reasons why road crashes have been increasing again in recent years, but we know people are driving more and our roads are busier with more traffic,” said Thomsen.

“This means more attention and consideration is needed by all of us on the task of driving.”

Thomsen said the number of cyclists who had been killed or injured this year had also been significantly higher than in previous years.

“If you’re cycling or walking near roads, you’re very vulnerable if something goes wrong. Whether you’re the cyclist, pedestrian or driver, please take extra time and care to share the road space safely,” he said.

The association praised the Government funding injection announced prior to Christmas for safety upgrades on high-risk rural highways but said engineering alone wouldn’t reduce the toll.

“If you are going too fast for the conditions, following too close, or not paying full attention to your driving then you may not react in time if something unexpected happens.”

So far the Christmas-New Year Holiday road toll stands at 11.

Ways every driver can help stay safe and bring down the road toll:
• Drive to the conditions
• Stick to a safe speed
• Give yourself plenty of following distance
• Keep your focus on driving – avoid the lure of checking your cellphone and stop the car if children are distracting you
• Don’t drive if you’re tired or affected by alcohol, or illegal or prescription drugs
• Always wear your seatbelt

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