Fatality at Te Aute Hill roadworks

By By Corey Charlton, Teuila Fuatai

A man not wearing a seatbelt was killed when he crashed into roadworks and lost control on loose gravel early yesterday morning.

Police have not yet released the man's name, but he is believed to be a local, aged in his 40s.

He was travelling towards Hastings on Te Aute Hill around 3am yesterday morning.

A police spokeswoman said yesterday that he had not been wearing a seatbelt, but could not confirm if alcohol was a factor.

John Oliver, from the Otane Fire Brigade, said, "It seems the vehicle shot across the road into some trees, hit one tree, then hit another, then bounced back on to the side of the road.

"At first we thought the driver had done a runner, but [it] looks like he wasn't wearing a safety belt and ended up in the passenger seat." It's believed the man was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

This year's latest fatality came on a day when figures released by the Justice Ministry show 374 people with previous drink-driving convictions were caught and convicted again in the first six months of this year.

The figures relate to convictions in Napier, Hastings, Dannevirke and Waipukurau.

Hawke's Bay Roadsafe regional manager Linda Anderson said there was no quick-fix to repeat offending.

"They've been given the full weight of the law but it hasn't changed their behaviour.

"They need to see [driving sober] for the true reason, which is to keep them safe - and other people.".

Total convictions for the region stood at 673 in the six months to June this year. Last year, 1308 drink drivers were convicted, up from 1217 in 2010.

"Our statistics are showing between 15 to 19-year-old males are our target groups," Ms Anderson said. "They tend to demonstrate more risky behaviours than more experienced drivers.

But, the message was the same for everyone: "Don't drink and drive. It's about stopping for a moment and thinking about the consequences of your actions."

Nationally, nearly 14,000 drink-drive convictions were handed down by courts in the first six months of this year.

A driver convicted on Auckland's North Shore had the country's highest alcohol reading for the period - nearly five times the legal limit of 400 micrograms per litre of breath, and had an alcohol reading of 1884mcg.

Hawke's Bay's worst drink driver for the same period registered 1882mcg.

NZ Transport Agency general manager strategy and performance Ernst Zollner said New Zealand needed to clamp down on drink drivers. "In spite of a reduction in alcohol-related road fatalities over the past 20 years, drink-driving is still a factor in around one out of every three fatal crashes on New Zealand roads.

"Far too many people still think it is okay to get behind the wheel after they've been drinking.

"And far too many people turn a blind eye to it when people around them drive after drinking.

Their actions are the cause of a huge amount of pain and suffering in communities right across the country."

Fatalities from alcohol and drug-impaired driving dropped in the last two years, from 144 in 2010 to 85 in 2011, Mr Zollner said.

Serious injury crashes linked to alcohol and drug-impaired driving had also fallen 18 per cent for the period, from 554 to 452.

The Ministry of Transport estimated the social cost of these crashes to be about $898 million for 2010 - a quarter of the social cost associated with all injury crashes.

New initiatives to tackle recidivist drink drivers have also been introduced.

Nationally, more than 7000 drivers with a previous drink driving conviction were caught and convicted again in the six months to June.

And in 2010 and 2011, more than 13,000 drink driving convictions each year were handed to motorists who had already been caught over the limit.

Mr Zollner said new sanctions were introduced in September giving judges the ability to require serious or repeat drink drivers to have "alcohol interlock" devices fitted to their vehicles.

Cars fitted with the device will not start if any alcohol is detected in the driver's system.

Repeat drink drivers can also be issued with a "zero-alcohol driver licence", which prohibits them from getting behind the wheel if they have any alcohol in their system.

"These measures are part of a concerted effort to tackle the serious harm caused by drink driving, which also includes the introduction last year of a zero blood alcohol limit for all drivers under the age of 20 and a doubled maximum penalty for drink or drugged driving causing death."

Inspector Pete Baird of National Road Police is also warning motorists to be careful over the upcoming holiday season.

"While Christmas is a special time for families, there is often an increased risk on our roads as higher levels of traffic are on the roads and people are out socialising with alcohol more often.

"Anyone who gets behind the wheel while intoxicated puts not only themselves at risk, but also other innocent road users."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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