Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Crashes costing Bay $141m a year

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Head of Western Bay Road Policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion. Photo/file
Head of Western Bay Road Policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion. Photo/file

Road crashes are continuing to shatter lives and the carnage is costing the Western Bay region almost $2.7 million a week.

The Ministry of Transport put the overall cost of road crashes resulting in death and injuries at $141.6 million for the Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga regions in 2014, the most recent figures available. The social cost per fatal crash in the region was calculated at $3.89 million, with a serious injury crash tallying $822,000 and a minor injury crash at $69,000 each.

Some people may be more focused on the personal tragedy but the ramifications are much bigger and more far-reaching than that.
Ian Campion

These figures were calculated using crashes and injury data recorded by police, hospitals and ACC.

The calculations take into account costs incurred through loss of life, loss of quality of life, injury, medical and rehabilitation costs, vehicle damage and legal costs.

Head of Western Bay road policing, Senior Sergeant Ian Campion, said many motorists tended to operate on "auto-pilot" and probably did not think about the life-changing impact of a crash.

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"Some people may be more focused on the personal tragedy but the ramifications are much bigger and more far-reaching than that."

Mr Campion said the dollar figure came nowhere near measuring the loss of a loved one.

"It's not just the deceased's family and close friends or their immediate social group that is affected. If the person killed is a student, it will impact on hundreds and hundreds of people, and it's life-changing for the whole school community, " he said.

Mr Campion said there were huge ramifications for those who suffered loss through serious injury.

When driving around the district he was constantly reminded about every fatal crash site he attended, and the people who died or suffered serious injuries, he said.

Mr Campion said the hardest part of his job was having to inform next-of-kin that they had lost their family member or someone had been seriously hurt.

In 2013, the Western Bay achieved its lowest road toll since 2003, with six fatalities. But in 2014, 16 people died on local roads. The provisional 2015 road toll for the region stands at 18 deaths.

Preventable factors such as speed, driver distraction, driver fatigue and alcohol featured highly in many of the fatal and serious crashes.

Bay of Plenty district road policing manager, Inspector Brent Crowe, said the focus for 2016 was on the big five causes of serious injury crashes and death - speed, alcohol and drugs, not wearing seatbelts, driver distraction and fatigue.

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NZ Transport Agency's acting Bay of Plenty highway manager, Adam Francis, said: "We take a safe system approach as we work towards our goal of reducing death and serious injury crashes."

That meant working to make roads and roadsides more forgiving to help to reduce the consequences of crashes when they did occur.

Mr Francis said over the past year the transport agency had been working on several safety projects in the Western Bay.

That included installing safety barriers, widening sections of highway and installing new electronic curve warning signage to slow drivers.

Mr Francis said work on the Te Puna roundabout to reduce delays and unsafe manoeuvres was expected to start in March.

"In the coming months we expect to announce additional safety works on SH2 from Waihi to Tauranga, all designed to prevent head-on and intersection crashes," he said.

Mr Francis said it was crucial that people gave driving the respect and attention it deserved.

"It's a huge responsibility getting behind the wheel and a privilege to be able to do so."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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