Record road toll for Western Bay

By Sandra Conchie

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With eight road deaths during 2012, the Western Bay has bucked the national trend, recording its lowest road toll in more than 30 years.

There were seven fatal crashes resulting in eight deaths on Western Bay roads, compared to 14 fatalities in 2011.

"2012 will go down on record as the lowest recorded road toll the Western Bay of Plenty has seen since at least 1980," said Western Bay police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton.

The provisional national road toll for 2012 was 318, compared to 284 fatalities in 2011, 375 in 2010 and 385 in 2009. Mr Paxton said while the eight deaths during 2012 were still "eight deaths too many" it remained a remarkably low rate compared to some years ago.

"Any death or serious injury on our roads has significant impacts on families and our communities. Ideally, we would love to have no deaths at all on our roads but to finish the year in single figures is testament to the hard work put in by our communities and partner agencies promoting road safety," he said.

A Ministry of Transport report released last month put the social cost of a fatal crash at $4.45 million and the average cost of a serious crash at $467,300.

Fatal road crashes in the Western Bay in 2011 cost $62.3m and with eight fatalities last year the social cost for 2012 was slightly more than half that at $35.6m.

Mr Paxton said it was important to recognise the role communities played in reducing road trauma.

"The ability of community members and communities to take on board messages and change their driver behaviour is imperative to reducing the road toll," he said.

If the "critical masses" complied with the road rules and modified their risky behaviour he was sure there would be even less trauma on Western Bay roads during 2013.

Head of Western Bay road policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion was earlier reported in the Bay of Plenty Times as saying that a dedicated Highway Patrol Unit in the region and the zero-tolerance alcohol policy for young drivers were key factors in a low road toll for 2012.

Mr Campion also attributed the drop in fatalities to the hard work of police, other road safety partners who made up the region's Joint Road Safety Committee and better road engineering.

Associate Minister of Transport and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the Western Bay's 2012 road toll results were "very pleasing".

"I think there are several reasons for this. Firstly I think that more drivers are taking on board the road safety messages and there is also our safety-systems approach which is focused on ensuring we have safer roads, safer vehicles and safer drivers using them. Police also deserve a lot of credit for their hard work."

Mr Bridges also attributed the lower road toll to regulatory law changes including zero blood alcohol limits for under 20s, raising the driving age to 16, introducing a tougher restricted licence test and changes to laws around cellphone usage while driving.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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