Low road toll plea

By Sam Hurley, Doug Laing


Police are urging motorists in Hawke's Bay to go for the record as the region targets one of its lowest annual road tolls in the history of the automobile - just a year after one of its worst holiday weekends.

Ministry of Transport figures up to Monday show there have been just three deaths on Hawke's Bay roads this year, believed to be the lowest in more than 50 years of road toll statistics for the Hawke's Bay Today circulation area from Wairoa to Dannevirke.

It compares with 10 at the same stage of last year, a figure which rocketed quickly to 15 with five deaths in a few hours on the first day of the Queen's Birthday holiday weekend.

RoadSafe Hawke's Bay regional manager Linda Anderson said she believed the low road toll was in part down to the collaboration of a number of road safety partners.

"We have raised awareness around the risks that surround road safety along with the police to help reduce the number of fatal accidents," she said. "None of us want to see any more road fatalities."

She said programmes such as the Hawke's Bay Youth Expo, aimed at young drivers, were helping people make better decisions when they entered a vehicle.

"We have a really cohesive work program that works with all the partners " she said. "We have just finished our road safety program and we have had some good feedback so far."

She offered advice for those travelling on the roads this long weekend, especially if taking long distance trips.

"People need to check the weather and road conditions before they leave and [pack] extra water and warm clothes, while driving with at least a half-tank of gas just in case they get diverted to another route," she said. "You should also tell people when you leave and arrive at your destination. People tend to push it over a long weekend so we will be running a campaign against driving while fatigued."

Notably, there have been no fatal incidents on Hawke's Bay roads for more than three months.

The last was that of a 79-year-old man who died in Hawke's Bay Hospital six days after stepping into the path of a vehicle at a Hastings roundabout on February 22.

Plea to

keep road

toll low

Three days earlier a 19-year-old was killed when the car in which she was a passenger hit a tree in Sandy Rd, Meeanee, and the first fatality of the year in Hawke's Bay was on January 21 when another 19-year-old died after the car he was in crashed off Te Mata Peak Rd, Havelock North.

Nationally, it was only last weekend that the road toll for the year reached 100, also the lowest since comparable figures were first collated in the mid-1960s. The lowest previously up to May 27 in the last 10 years had been 114 in 2011, while the highest over the decade was 189 in 2005.

Last year, there were 7 deaths nationwide over Queen's Birthday weekend, including four men in one crash on a rural road east of the Napier-Wairoa road settlement of Putorino and a woman hit by a vehicle on SH2 near Otane. There were 17 crashes causing serious injuries, and a further 59 with minor.

To help lower the figures, and maintain the annual toll's downward trend, police will target speeding, impaired driving and seatbelt use in this year's holiday road toll period from 4pm tomorrow to 6am on Tuesday.

In line with the "drive to survive philosophy," police will provide revivers in the form of coffee breaks for motorists at the side of SH5 between Napier and Taupo on Saturday, and SH2 near Waipukurau on Monday.

Police Eastern District road policing manager Inspector Chris Wallace said crash risk data indicates incidence of poor driving increases over Queen's Birthday weekend, as traffic increases in often wintry conditions.

A key fault is driving too fast for conditions, and excessive speed tolerance will be lowered to 4km above the limits, a strategy used by Police at Queen's Birthday Weekend for the last three years.

"Given that it is the only holiday weekend during winter," Mr Wallace said, "the risks of having a crash due to poor weather conditions are significantly higher, which means it is vital that motorists adjust their driving behaviour accordingly."

"This means driving to the conditions, increasing following distances, and paying extra attention," he said.

"Also, if the weather is severe and you don't have to travel, stay at home."

According to Metservice, fine weather is expected in Hawke's Bay and Poverty Bay throughout the weekend, but rain is expected towards Taupo and in Manawatu.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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