5 Jan 2021

Christmas and New Year road deaths up on last year

7:05 pm on 5 January 2021

Road deaths over the holiday period have climbed to the highest number in four years, with half of the victims not wearing seatbelts.

Police lights

Photo: 123RF

Eleven people died on the roads from Christmas Eve to 6am Tuesday 5 January and police say five were not properly restrained.

Four people died over last Christmas and New Years - the lowest number since records began.

Eleven is the highest number of people dying over the summer holidays since 2016-17, when 19 people died.

Three of the crashes in this period were double fatalities and one included a six-year-old boy.

Police acting national road policing manager Inspector Peter McKennie said people were still taking "unnecessary risks".

"They might think they are calculated risks at the time but they are risks never the less.

"If someone crosses the centre line for whatever reason - whether it's fatigue or impairment or distraction or going into a corner to fast, chances are with the volumes of traffic over this holiday period there's going to be something coming the other way."

He said while wearing a seatbelt could not guarantee survival, it certainly increased people's chances.

"We need people to slow down and remain totally focused on the job at hand, which is driving when they're behind the wheel.

"Taking a few minutes longer with your journey is a darn sight better than rushing it and perhaps not getting to where you're going to."

AA spokeswoman Kiri Coughlan said the association was "really disappointed" with the higher number of people dying.

"It's just such a tragedy because behind each of those 11 people there are friends and family who are all affected and we just really think it's a far too higher toll."

She said it was essential to remember the "simple things".

"Drive at a safe speed to the conditions ... put your seatbelt on, making sure you take a break when you're tired on the road. We know inattention comes into play when people are exhausted on long road trips, and that's why it's really important to take regular breaks every hour or two.

"If you can, plan your trip in advance and avoid travelling in the congestion hot sports which is between 10am and 4pm."

Coughlan said Covid-19 overseas travel bans brought more Kiwis on to the roads so they needed to give other drivers "breathing space" on the roads.

The provisional road toll for 2020 was 320, an average of six people dying a week. That was just down from 2019, when 352 died.

The crashes over the holiday period remain under police investigation.

Fatalities over the 2020-21 holiday period

  • 25 December: Rebecca McAlees, 24, and Terry Charleston, 34, from Whitford in Auckland died when their vehicle crashed between Clevedon and Kawakawa in East Auckland. No other vehicles were involved in the crash and police say high speed appeared to be a factor.
  • 26 December: A car struck a bridge in Henderson, Auckland, killing Jack Heritage Jr and Viliami Muru-Teuatu, both 20.
  • 28 December: Kareen Marie Malcolm and James Lennon Malcolm, both 61 and from Invercargill, died when a milk tanker and motorcycle collided between Riverton and Wallacetown in Southland.
  • 29 December: A person was killed after a two-vehicle crash in Dairy Flat, Auckland.
  • 29 December: Ian Graham Morgan, 62, of Eketahuna, died in a two-vehicle crash in Pahiatua in the southeastern North Island.
  • 30 December: Benjamin Simon Furze, 29, of Christchurch, died in a one-car crash in Harewood, Christchurch.
  • 1 January: Myka Tuala, a six-year-old from Wellington, died after a two-vehicle crash on State Highway 1 near Whangārei.
  • 4 January: A person was killed in a crash between a truck and a car on State Highway 29 in the Lower Kaimai Ranges in Bay of Plenty.

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