Road toll rockets to 5 year high for region

Two crashes with quadruple fatalities have resulted in the region's highest year-to-date road toll in five years.

Sixteen people have died on Hawke's Bay roads so far this year, compared with 10 at the same time last September.

"It appears that alcohol was a pretty common feature and that's not just in those two crashes," Hawke's Bay Road Policing Sergeant Clint Adamson said.

"I think it's fair to say that we're disappointed in the number of people that we're still continuing to catch drink-driving."

Both crashes occurred in the rural area of Raupunga between Napier and Wairoa.

Four shearing gang workers were killed in Northern Hawke's Bay in January when the car they were travelling in crossed the centre line and hit an oncoming 4x4 vehicle towing a trailer and boat.

During Queen's Birthday weekend in June, farmhands Jack Huata, Paul Thomas Parata, Lou Phillip Wesley and James Raupita, were killed when their car crashed into a paddock on Waikare Rd near Putorino.

This year 191 people have died on New Zealand roads - three more than at the same time last September.

Most of the deaths were motorists aged over 60. But a top road policing officer says getting older drivers to hand in their keys is proving problematic.

Waikato has recorded the most road deaths so far this year with 36, closely followed by Auckland. Nelson/Marlborough has had the fewest deaths, with three.

The annual road toll has been declining over the past five years, with a record low last year of 284.

"There is a bigger focus by the road safety partner agencies - not just police - looking at the bigger picture and looking at all facets which might reduce the road toll," acting national road policing manager Superintendent Rob Morgan said.

"It's not just enforcement that is the answer, but the whole picture, what can we do about the roads, the roadside, better engineering, better education, what other things can we put in place as far as legislation is concerned?

"We genuinely feel that the majority of people out there are getting the message."

Though young, male drivers are usually considered the most dangerous, this year 57 people aged over-60 have died in road crashes, compared with 44 motorists aged 15 to 24.

Mr Morgan said New Zealand had an aging population and people were driving for longer.

But getting stubborn, aging drivers to hand in their keys had always been difficult, Mr Morgan said.

There was no clear solution and compulsory testing for aging drivers did not work.

"I don't have a silver bullet ... if I did, I'd be commissioner of police.

"We're looking for the population to recognise their own risks and self-manage those risks - that's the nirvana we're looking for."

Police or family members concerned about a driver's ability can currently apply to the New Zealand Transport Agency director - which has the power to request a compulsory driving assessment.

If the driver fails to undergo an assessment, their licence is automatically suspended.

Year to date

Five people were killed on Hawke's Bay roads while driving, eight were passengers, two were riding motorcycles and one was a pedestrian.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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