The cost of Northland crashes

By Kristin Edge

Car crashes are shattering lives and costing more than $5 million a week in Northland. But the good news is the brakes are being put on the carnage with the road toll taking a dive.
The latest Road Safety Issues report from Land Transport NZ put the total social cost of crashes in Northland in 2009 at $271.6 million, or about $5.2 million a week.
Statistics are not available for last year when 22 people died in crashes on Northland roads - the lowest number of fatalities since 1980. This year's toll stands at five - four fatal crashes in the Far North and one in Whangarei.
Emergency services across the region were called to about 29 crashes a week in 2009 - 1514 in total.
Alcohol, speed and bends were the top three factors in crashes - with alcohol a factor in 30 per cent of all fatal and serious crashes. It also reported fatigue was more prevalent in fatal crashes in Northland than anywhere else in New Zealand.
The social cost of the Northland roads were reached by combining "loss of life or life quality", loss of production due to injuries, medical and legal costs, and property damage.
A fatal crash can cost more than a million dollars.
Northland road policing manager Inspector Clifford Paxton said results had improved since 2009 and a number of things needed to happen to sustain the continuing drop in fatal road crashes.
"Enforcement, education, engineering and a community prepared to take on the safety messages," were required, Mr Paxton said.
"What we have seen over the last couple of years is good work done by our partner agencies, especially around drink driving."
He said people were using sober drivers, people were collecting loved ones and taking keys from those who had been drinking.


It had combined with major engineering work done on Northland's crash black spots including the Bynderwyn Hills and Ruakaka Straights. Lowering the speed limit in the area had also contributed to the reduction of fatal crashes, Mr Paxton said.
Police would continue to target alcohol, speed and restraints as alcohol was a factor in 30 per cent of fatal crashes in 2009.
Mr Paxton said crashes on bends were not always a result of speeding but failing to drive to the conditions.
"Crashes on bends are a big issue and indicative of our rural roads which are unforgiving."
During a five year period to 2009 it was reported 24 per cent of injury crashes in the region involved travelling too fast for the conditions. A staggering 49 per cent of crashes were loss of control on bends.
Young drivers were often at fault in bend-related crashes with 41 per cent of at-fault drivers being aged 24 and under.
Drivers who lost control often crashed into roadside hazards including ditches, banks, poles or trees with the most common in Northland being cliffs and banks.

- Northern Advocate

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