Anna Leask

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

Zero holiday road toll just the start for safety goals

Photo / Sarah Ivey
Photo / Sarah Ivey

A zero road toll this Labour weekend would break a 36-year record, but police say it's not just the number of fatalities they want to cut.

The official holiday period ends at 6am tomorrow. But as of last night, the long weekend road toll remained at zero, on track to be lowest since records began in 1977, when two people died.

The annual road toll is also lower than this time last year. On Friday, the toll stood at 202, compared with 235 on the same day in 2012.

The holiday weekend hasn't been without incident on the roads, however. Emergency services were called to Kahikatea Flat Rd near Kaukapakapa, 50km northwest of Auckland, at 7.45am yesterday after six of 30 cyclists were bowled off their bikes.

Waitemata police spokeswoman Beth Bate said that as a car passed, a cyclist on the outside of the group moved in to make room. The cyclist knocked the person beside them, who in turn knocked others off their bikes.

One cyclist was taken to hospital with moderate injuries. The other five suffered minor injuries.

National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said it would be "awesome" to end the weekend fatality-free and without any serious injuries.

"A zero road toll would be absolutely fantastic, but the only problem is when you talk about the toll, it's easy to lose sight of the people who get seriously injured," he said.

"Whilst no one has died, there are people who will be injured, and for whom the road to recovery will be long and painful."

During Labour weekend last year, six people were killed in three crashes and a further 22 suffered significant injuries.

"Every year in New Zealand, 2700 people are hospitalised for more than a week as a result of motor vehicle crashes," Mr Griffiths said.

Many of those were passengers.

"For goodness sake, make smart choices about who you get into the car with. Too many passengers are being killed on our roads. It's really important to never get in a car with someone who drives like a clown or has been drinking. "

Statistics released by the Automobile Association on Friday show that drink-driving is the leading cause of road deaths over Labour weekends.

From 2010 to 2012, 14 of the 22 people who died were in crashes where a driver was drunk.

"Two-thirds of the people killed on the roads over the last three Labour weekends have been in crashes involving alcohol," said AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen.

"That is 14 people who might well have been alive today if a driver had stayed sober.

"There have also been 104 people injured in Labour weekend crashes where a driver has either been drinking or taking drugs."

Mr Griffiths said it appeared motorists were taking more care on the road, with fewer speeding.

While it would be several months before the figures on the number speeding tickets issued were available, he said, motorists appeared to be taking notice of the police lower speed enforcement.

During long weekends and holiday periods, the speed tolerance drops, meaning anyone caught travelling at 4km/h faster than the posted limit is fined.

"What we've found is that driver behaviour has changed," Mr Griffiths said. "When the speed limit comes down, fewer people speed. People drive better."

- NZ Herald

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