A spate of serious multi-victim car crashes has pushed the road toll higher than what it was this time last year.
Eleven people died last July on New Zealand roads but that figure has already been exceeded with 15 deaths by last night. The total number killed this year was 156, compared with 150 at the same time in 2011.
Three people were killed in Gisborne after trying to evade police on Saturday night, a man was killed in Mangere after a car hit a power line early yesterday, and a motorcyclist died in hospital yesterday after a collision with a car near Rotorua on Saturday.
Those accidents follow a horrific head-on collision with a truck last week in the central North Island that killed four young Argentine men.
Acting road policing manager Inspector Rob Morgan told the Herald the crashes - particularly the ones with multiple victims - were the result of poor decision making, speed and alcohol. He called on passengers to take some responsibility.
"Think about how many lives would have been saved - we would be tracking even lower if we hadn't had all these multiples."
His message for passengers was, "Just emphasise the need to be really careful when you jump in the car with someone else. That person is in control of your safety.
"These other people have jumped into a vehicle with somebody who has been driving in a risky manner."
The message police had been pushing was the same as it had been for a decade, he said, which was not to drink and drive, or speed, and to wear safety belts.
"We know our strategy is working and have seen the reduction in the road toll and the messages we're giving are aimed at drivers predominantly.
"And we know the majority of drivers are listening and are taking more care.
"In all of these accidents there is only one driver who has made an error of judgment - be that by overtaking, not making sure passengers are wearing seatbelts, drinking before they drive or travelling too fast."
There had been a "high number" of multiple fatal crashes this year but Mr Morgan needed to look at the figures to know how many more than usual.
Despite the rise in road deaths, he was still hopeful.
In May three American students died after their minivan crashed and rolled on State Highway 47, and three teenagers died when their vehicle crashed at Gordonton, North Waikato, on June 29.
Also, four men died in northern Hawkes Bay during Queen's Birthday Weekend and another four people were killed in Hawkes Bay in January.
In Gisborne, police are looking for sightings of the white Mitsubishi involved in the pursuit on Saturday night that killed Dylan Kingi, 28, Holly Gunn, 25, and Peter Bunyan, 27.
Senior Sergeant Maui Aben said police wanted to hear of sightings of the car between 9.30pm and 9.45pm and revealed that officers had visited an address the victims had been at earlier in the night, although it was not known why the driver fled.
"An officer noted a vehicle driving at speed in the opposite direction to which he was travelling.
"He turned to follow the vehicle and activated his blue and red flashing lights to which the vehicle failed to stop. Due to the speed of the vehicle and the manner in which it was being driven, the officer was unable to catch up to the vehicle and subsequently lost sight of it."
About two minutes later police found the crashed car.
"It is devastating for the families and I wish to convey my sincere condolences to them," said Mr Aben.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has launched an inquiry into the crash, as it does with all fatal police pursuits.
The rise in the road toll is in contrast to earlier this year with 12 recorded deaths in April, which was the lowest for any month since 1965, when monthly records began.
The road toll in 2011 was the lowest since records began, with 284 deaths.By Andrew Koubaridis @A_Koubaridis Email Andrew