Editorial: Fatalities fall, but room to improve

By Dylan Thorne

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Road toll figures are issued at the end of each year and inevitably there are comparisons on how the numbers compare with previous years.

This is usually followed by debate on the merits of road safety campaigns and police strategies aimed at making our roads safe.

It appears, in the Western Bay at least, that road safety messages are finally getting through.

Last week we reported the Western Bay bucked the national trend, recording its lowest road toll in more than 30 years.

There were eight road deaths in the Western Bay last year.

Police have said that taking a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for young drivers was key factor in a low road toll for 2012.

Western Bay police area commander Clifford 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.

It is pleasing that people appear to be taking road safety messages on board and, as Mr Paxton points out, the fact the road toll remained in single figures is testament to the hard work put in by various agencies.

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.

The social cost of fatal crashes is huge. 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 $62.3 million and with eight fatalities last year the social cost for 2012 was slightly more than half that at $35.6 million.

The reality is that in 2012, eight Western Bay families suffered an unimaginable loss as a result of fatal crashes.

Eight people - who were more than just a number to those who knew them - are dead.

While we should take heart that the road toll is dropping in our region, the grim reality is that our roads are still not as safe as they need to be.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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