Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Police out to keep holiday tragedy free

Patrols will be on roads in force targeting drinkers, speedsters to prevent a repeat of last year's total.

This accident at an intersection on State Highway 1 near Paraparaumu claimed the lives of Stephanie Fox, 18, and her stepfather, Lance Reilly, 39. Photo / Mark Mitchell
This accident at an intersection on State Highway 1 near Paraparaumu claimed the lives of Stephanie Fox, 18, and her stepfather, Lance Reilly, 39. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The present road toll is more than 10 per cent higher than the same time last year - and police are determined to stop it rising any further over the holiday period.

By yesterday afternoon, 298 people had been killed on New Zealand roads. Of those 172 were drivers or motorcycle riders, 80 passengers, 32 pedestrians, and eight were cyclists.

On the same date last year, the road toll was at 268.

Road crash trends had been going down for most of 2012, police say, but as the end of the year approached the toll started to rise.

Eighteen people died over the 2011-12 holiday period. This year's runs from 4pm on Christmas Eve to 6am on January 3. And those in charge of road policing intend cracking down on drivers to ensure there's no repeat of last year's carnage.

"We can't just sit by as countless families have their Christmas and perhaps the rest of their lives ruined by a needless and senseless traffic crash," said Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff, who is overseeing national road policing.

Police would be out in force over the holidays, breath-testing as many drivers as possible and making sure motorists stuck to the road rules.

"The responsibility for this is literally in the hands of each and every road user. For those that flout the rules, police will be out on the roads to remind them," said national road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths.

"We know the majority of drivers stick to the speed limit, drive to the conditions, wear their safety belts, never drive drunk and are courteous, considerate and safe. Holiday driving requires extra care and attention. At this time of year, perhaps more than any other, drivers can't afford to become complacent for their own, and other people's, safety on the roads."

Police would take a particularly hard line on drink-driving over the holidays. "The consequences of drinking and driving can make for a tragic holiday season for many families. This is what we want to avoid if we possibly can," said Mr Griffiths.

"Police will be out in force in all parts of the country, and will prosecute every driver caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs."

Mr Cliff said police aimed to "make a difference between life and death on New Zealand roads". For every 100 alcohol or drug-impaired driver killed in a crash, there were 54 passengers and 27 sober road users that died with them.

"This is just not good enough and we cannot sit by and let it happen."

"We all know alcohol has a massive effect on the road toll and these holidays we'll be focusing on getting drunk drivers off our roads. The driving public can expect to get breath-tested often and on any road - urban or rural."

Officers would also be targeting the other four key factors that cause road crashes, deaths and injuries - speed, seatbelts, driver distraction and fatigue. As with all holiday periods, a lower speed tolerance would be in place over Christmas and New Year, meaning action would be taken against all drivers caught travelling 4km or more over the limit.

Survival guide

*Plan your trip - take plenty of breaks and share the driving.

*Be patient.

*Drive to the conditions - the speed limit is not a target.

*Ensure everyone is wearing a seatbelt or child restraint.

*Do not drive after drinking alcohol.

*Respect other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

Xmas break a time of grief

Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year - but for the families of the 18 people killed on New Zealand roads in the 2011/12 holiday period the day will be a tragic anniversary.

The victims were aged between 13 and 85 and a mix of passengers, drivers and pedestrians. In some cases the dead were related to one another, or were friends.

The carnage began on Christmas Eve, when Daniel Mercer, 20, died when his car plunged into Christchurch's Avon River, Gareth Waller, 29, rolled his car into the Waihi River near Geraldine and Doris Strong, 78, collided with a truck in Waitara, Taranaki.

Three more people were killed on Christmas Day, starting with sisters Merepeka Morehu-Clark, 14, and Brooklyn Morehu-Clark, 13, in a high-speed collision near Tauranga. Later that day Jasmine Gray, 52, died after she was hit by a courier van while walking near Horotiu.

On December 27, Wellsford grandmother Anne Marchant, 85, was hit by a car while crossing the road, and Lower Hutt woman Carol Gibson, 70, died in a crash on the Desert Rd near Waiouru.

David Morris, 82, and German tourist Kerstin Fromert, 51, died on the 28th after a car and campervan collided near Haast, and Hayden Bailey, 21, collided with a lamppost and died in Christchurch on December 29.

A crash at an intersection on State Highway 1 near Paraparaumu claimed the lives of Stephanie Fox, 18, and her stepfather Lance Reilly, 39.

On New Year's Eve Blenheim men Gary Benseman, 22, and Brian Cooper, 23, were killed when their car hit a power pole and burst into flames.

On New Year's Day a 22-year-old pedestrian was struck by a truck and killed near Auckland Airport, and Viv White, 59, died in a crash near Masterton. A German tourist was the 18th and final victim before the official holiday road-toll period ended, when the van she was in collided with a ute near Hunterville.

- NZ Herald

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