Road toll up but crashes down

By Mathew Dearnaley

Photo / Michael Craig
Photo / Michael Craig

More people have died in fewer car smashes since January 1 than at this time last year, prompting a Government reminder about the responsibility drivers hold over others' lives.

"The message for drivers is clear," Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said yesterday of a spate of multi-fatality crashes that have boosted the road toll to 161.

"When you take chances on the road, you not only risk your life but also the lives of those in your vehicle and those you are sharing the road with."

Mr Bridges, the Government minister responsible for transport safety, noted that six more people have died on the roads than at this time last year - but in 11 fewer fatal crashes.

By Friday, there had been 133 deadly vehicle accidents, compared with 144 at July 20 last year, when 155 people had died.

Multi-fatality smashes are blamed for a shocking increase in the toll for Gisborne and Hawkes Bay - to 22 deaths, compared with last year's nine.

In January, four male shearing-gang workers died in a head-on collision on State Highway 2 southwest of Wairoa in which the sole surviving occupant of their car is believed to have been the only one wearing a seatbelt.

Last month, four male farmhands were killed in a crash a few kilometres further south on the same road, and three young people - two men and a woman - were killed in Gisborne last week in a car racing away from the police.

In multi-fatal crashes elsewhere, four young men from Argentina were killed in a head-on collision with a truck near Ohakune and three American students died after their vehicle crashed near Turangi in May.

Two pedestrians have died after being run over last week, including an 18-year-old woman believed to have been lying in the middle of Karaka Rd in Drury on Wednesday night.

The police named her as Courtney Jane Mower, of Papakura.

Mr Bridges said the grisly numbers were a reminder to the Government "that there is still more to be done to improve safety on our roads".

That included introducing interlocks before the end of the year on cars owned by recidivist drink-drivers, to prevent them from turning on the ignition with alcohol on their breath.

But he said rules and regulations could only do so much and it was up to road users to play their part towards creating a safer system. "Make safety a priority, buy the safest car you can afford, take simple steps like wearing a seatbelt and avoid unnecessary risks like unsafe speeds or drink or drugged driving."

Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon said it was telling that 11 more passengers had died this year, but without some extremely bad luck on the multiple fatality front, "we might be doing quite well".

"We would be doing okay, because we are only six over last year, which was pretty much a record - we've been holding our own," he said.

Mr Noon was referring to last year's toll of 284 deaths being 24 per cent below that of 2010, and the country's lowest since 1952, when there were far fewer cars.

The rolling toll for the 12 months to Friday of 290 deaths was also 21 fewer than at the same time last year.

But he said there was "a pretty awful shock value" to multiple fatality crashes, which left no room for complacency and were "a reminder that we certainly haven't bested the problem yet".

Acting national road police manager Inspector Rob Morgan said the multiple-fatality crashes should be a reminder to people to be careful which drivers they entrusted with their lives.

"You've got to keep in mind that person's responsibility for your life and you owe it to yourself that if you're not comfortable, to make a comment about that or get out [of a car]."

- NZ Herald

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