4 Jan 2023

Provisional holiday road toll of 21 deaths 'an absolute tragic period'

8:54 pm on 4 January 2023
Road crashes imposed intangible, financial and economic costs to society, said the report.

A moment's inattention can have devastating consequences, Assistant Commissioner Bruce O'Brien says. Photo: 123RF

Police say poor driving decisions have had devastating consequences on the road this summer.

The official holiday road-toll period has ended with a provisional total of 21 deaths from crashes, with police describing the figure as "completely unacceptable".

The annual provisional tally of road deaths in 2022 was 378, on a par with 2018, when 378 people died.

Since then the government has introduced a new road safety strategy, Road To Zero, which is meant to see incremental reductions in road deaths, leading to a 40 percent reduction in death and serious injuries by 2030.

Police Assistant Commissioner Bruce O'Brien said it was completely unacceptable for 21 people to lose their lives in crashes over this year's holiday period.

"But unfortunately we're still seeing the same behaviours contributing to fatal crashes right across New Zealand and [it's] really disappointing."

Problems included people not wearing seatbelts when they crashed, exceeding the speed limit, being distracted by their cellphones or devices and sometimes drifting onto the wrong side of the road or rolling, he said.

"And it's impairment, so that could be alcohol or drugs or people that are fatigued."

Another issue was that people were often travelling on unfamiliar roads at this time of the year and a moment's inattention could have catastrophic consequences, O'Brien said.

Some people still had a level of complacency about the risks of driving a vehicle, he said.

"It can be as simple as looking down to answer the phone or send a text message and that moment's inattention can have absolutely devastating consequences."

Police have had many staff right across New Zealand over the summer, as well as doing impairment testing, he said.

"But I still think it comes back to responsibility for drivers themselves, their passengers and other road users because we've all got that responsibility when we're in the vehicle.

"Police can't be on every single road at every single moment so we really need people to take that responsibility when they get in their car because the absolutely devastating consequences that this has for families and friends that are left behind is just terrible."

Meanwhile, a national road safety charity said the government needed to move faster on its Road to Zero strategy to reduce the number of people dying on the road.

Brake New Zealand director Caroline Perry said while drivers' attitudes did need to change, the government had a lot of work to do.

"Implementing things like median barriers and safety barriers that we know have proven to reduce the likelihood of someone being killed or seriously injured. We need safe speed limits, so a lot of our speed limits are still too fast for the conditions of the roads and also improving driver education."

Perry said she also wanted police to have more resources to enforce the road rules and take dangerous drivers off the road.

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