27 Oct 2020

Labour weekend road toll 'deeply distressing' - police

8:32 am on 27 October 2020

Six people died on the roads over Labour weekend, compared with just one death over the same period last year.

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Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The fatalities include a person who died in a crash in Horowhenua on Sunday night, and another who died when a car rolled on State Highway 35 in Tikitiki, East Cape, on Sunday afternoon.

A man who died in a crash on the Tekapo-Twizel road on Saturday has been named as 42-year-old Che Tekapa Hogg, from Auckland.

Kelly Eugene Baker, 36, died in a crash in Gisborne early Saturday morning, and another person died in a crash the same day in Whanganui.

A motorcyclist died in Upper Hutt on Friday.

Acting Superintendent Gini Welch, who is the national road policing manager, told Morning Report the volume of traffic was commonly high over long weekends, but on Friday they were "significantly higher" than they had been.

"Most of the serious and fatal crashes that happened over this weekend happened on 100km/h areas, and that is consistent with people travelling.

"It's deeply distressing, there are too many people dying and being seriously injured on our roads and this weekend has been another example of that. Sadly, it's not unusual."

Welch said she didn't believe it was directly related to the pandemic or lockdown, but people wanting to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Police will be looking to take any lessons from the crashes this year.

"We also know that most crashes happen as a result of speed, as a result of driving with distraction, impairment and a lot of people sadly are still not wearing their seatbelts," Welch said.

One of the many crashes this weekend involved at least a dozen people who were injured in a three-car smash on State Highway 5, northeast of Taupō.

The stretch of road has been described by police as one of the country's most lethal.

Those involved suffered moderate to serious injuries.

It comes less than a fortnight since after a horror crash between a van and a truck killed Tino Tagiilima.

Taupō District Council Mayor David Trewavas told Morning Report officials believed that the crashes were a result of a combination of road factors.

"I think you've got a combination of metropolitan traffic that's been in the cities for quite some time, and they are travelling around the country quite a bit ... so you've got a change of conditions and topography of the roads. It's just a matter of adjusting to the conditions."

He urged motorists to take their time on the road and not rush to get to their destination, especially if they were not used to provincial road conditions.

Asked about whether he supported a speed limit reduction on SH5, Trewavas said in certain places it made sense.

"We've actually done that between Taupō and Turangi, which slows the trip down quite considerably, obviously the locals are a little bit grumpy about that."

Trewavas said motorists owed it the country and first responders to be responsible in their driving.

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