High-profile police checkpoints targeting alcohol and drug-impaired drivers will continue to be a major focus in Tauranga this summer after 2015 ended with 18 people dying on Western Bay roads.
Hundreds of motorists were tested at two checkpoints leading into central Mount Maunganui on New Year's Eve as part of a huge police crackdown that saw at least 15 people arrested for drink-driving by 5am yesterday.
Western Bay police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said the arrests included a male driver clocked at 143km/h on State Highway 29A at Te Maunga. The man blew 741mcg of alcohol per litre of breath - almost three times the limit.
Bay of Plenty district road policing manager Inspector Brent Crowe said the focus for 2016 would be to keep fatal and serious crash statistics tracking in the right direction.
Ministry of Transport statistics showed that 29 people were killed on the region's roads in 2015, one fewer than the previous year but well up on deaths from 2011-13.
Nearly two-thirds of the Bay's 2015 road toll happened in the Western Bay, where the 18 deaths were two more than 2014.
Inspector Crowe said 2016 would see police continuing with the "safer journeys" campaign focusing on the big five causes of serious injury and death: Speeding, alcohol and drugs, people not wearing seatbelts, driver distraction and fatigue.
Speaking from a checkpoint at Te Teko in the Eastern Bay, yesterday, he said many more police checkpoints would be set up in and around Tauranga over the summer holidays.
Inspector Crowe said police were still seeing a lot of people using mobile phones. Another concern was slow drivers frustrating other road users which led to poor overtaking decisions.
Western Bay's road policing head Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said last week that almost all the area's road crashes were preventable. He urged people to give themselves plenty of time to get to and from their holiday destinations and to take sufficient rest breaks.
"Drivers also need to reduce their speed, particularly in wet weather, and focus solely on their driving and not what is going on inside the car."
Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said it was incredibly sad to see that 293 people lost their lives on New Zealand roads in 2015, saying every death represented not only a lost life but grieving families, friends and communities. He noted that the road toll had dropped by 36 per cent between 2000 and 2014.
The Bay's 29 deaths meant the region had the fourth highest road toll in 2015, behind the Waikato (70 deaths), Auckland (52) and Canterbury (46).
Breakdown of fatalities on New Zealand roads in 2015:
* Drivers 159
* Passengers 75
* Motorcycle riders 48
* Motorcycle pillions 5
* Pedestrians 26
* Cyclists 6