A 45-year-old woman died in this crash on State Highway 10 at Kaingaroa in June. PHOTO/Peter Jackson
Two fatal crashes in two days have pushed the number of road deaths in the Far North this year to 14, sparking a plea from police.
That's double the number of road deaths in Whangarei and Kaipara combined so far this year and five more than in the Far North for the whole of last year.
The soaring toll - and the misery it brings to victims' family and friends - has Northland's top traffic cop imploring drivers to take responsibility for their own and other road users' safety, especially around alcohol, seatbelts and speed.
The latest death occurred about 4am yesterday when a car left State Highway 1F and hit a tree about 40km north of Kaitaia.
Senior Constable Warren Bunn, of the serious crash unit, said the driver had been heading south when his vehicle left the road at a right-hand bend between Turk Valley and Houhora Heads Rds.
The car went through a fence and struck a "pretty substantial" tree. The 68-year-old local man was dead when emergency services arrived.
The investigation was continuing but fatigue was a possible factor given the absence of brake marks. No other vehicles were involved and the driver was the sole occupant. He was wearing a seatbelt.
The highway was reduced to one lane but remained open. The Pukenui Rural Fire Party was called out to assist at 4am with the Kaitaia Fire Brigade returning in daylight to extricate the man's body from the wreckage.
Less than 48 hours earlier a 49-year-old Mitimiti man died while riding his motorcycle on the beach about 1km north of the isolated west coast settlement.
Mr Bunn said it appeared the motorcyclist had been on his way to visit a friend about 7.30pm on Wednesday when his bike struck a log and he was thrown off. His body was found the next morning.
The latest fatalities bring the Northland road toll to 21 for the year to date, with 14 of those in the Far North. The total for all of 2016 was 27 with nine in the Far North.
Northland road policing manager Inspector Wayne Ewers said police could enforce the road rules and provide education, but it still came down to people making the right decisions.
"People have to take responsibility and look after each other, and make sure their mates and whanau have their seatbelts on. I can't say it strongly enough. It's a repeated message but it's not getting through."
Of the 19 deaths before the two latest Northland fatalities, nine involved not wearing seatbelts, 12 featured drugs or alcohol and a quarter involved speed. All three factors played a part in some deaths.
"There have been some pretty clear-cut cases of people being thrown out of vehicles. They'd be alive today if they'd clicked their seatbelts on," Mr Ewers said.
"It's devastating for families, and also for the cops and emergency services who have to pick up the pieces and tell people their loved ones aren't coming home."
It was not clear why the Far North toll was so much worse this year. With its mainly rural roads the common theme of many Far North deaths was alcohol and seatbelts, while in Whangarei speed was more often the culprit.
The latest deaths come just days after the launch of a renewed road safety campaign in the Far North called One Tear Too Many.
The campaign, by Far North REAP, already features billboards around the district calling on motorists to slow down, drive sober and buckle up, but has been expanded to the backs of the Kaitaia-based Petricevich bus fleet.
Nationally the road toll is also on the way up after dropping to 253 in 2013, the lowest since 1950. Two years later it was back over 300 and it is continuing to climb. As of yesterday the national total so far this year was 203; at the same time in 2016 the road toll was 180.