A multimillion-dollar advertising campaign aimed at reducing the number of fatigued drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes is failing to make any difference.
The campaign and a raft of road improvements by the New Zealand Transport Agency have had little impact on lowering the number of accidents.
The number of people who died or were seriously injured in road crashes caused by fatigue in 2011/12 rose to 162 from 141 the previous year, according to figures recently released by the NZTA. However, there has been a long-term drop from 238 casualties in 2007/08.
The Manawatu/Wanganui region saw the biggest rise in crashes caused by tiredness with the number of people killed or seriously hurt up 17 on the previous year to 29, followed by Waikato, which recorded 11 more. Meanwhile, Wellington and Southland recorded the biggest decreases during the same period.
NZTA general manager of strategy and performance Ernst Zollner said the number of fatal and serious injury deaths caused by fatigue had not changed significantly in the past five years and it remained a factor in around 13 per cent of fatal crashes and 7 per cent of serious injury crashes each year.
The number of crashes caused by fatigue could even be higher than indicated because of the difficulty with establishing it as the cause of a crash.
During the same period the NZTA spent millions trying to educate drivers, as well as making improvements to the roads to prevent drivers from crashing.
The agency is behind a print, radio and outdoor advertising campaign costing $3.25 million since it was launched in 2007 and ran other education campaigns installing road signs urging drivers to take a break.
In addition, more than $70 million has been spent on improvements including installing roadside and centre line median barriers and rumble strips.
Mr Zollner said accidents caused by weariness, tiredness or exhaustion could occur well before the driver nodded off.
Road deaths and serious injuries caused by fatigue:
2007/08 : 238
2008/09 : 249
2009/10 : 266
2010/11 : 174
2011/12 : 195