Easter road toll holds at three

By Jimmy Ellingham

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Police hope to keep this year's Easter road toll at three as they crack down on speeding, distracted and alcohol-fuelled drivers as holiday makers head home.

The long weekend got off to a bad start on the roads, with three deaths within the first 12 hours of the holiday period.

Another three people died as a result of crashes on Thursday before the start of the official road toll period.

Acting road policing national manager Inspector Nic Brown hoped the toll would not increase tomorrow.

Police would be out in force on the roads as holiday makers return home.

"What we know is there is going to be a higher number of vehicles on the road and the distances that people are travelling will be further as they are returning from their holiday destinations.

"We know people are going to make mistakes but the thing is, it shouldn't cost anybody their life or limb," Mr Brown said.

"The indication is with those three fatalities and I don't want to speculate on specific cases it does come back to your speed, whether you're wearing a restraint or not. It's really simple behaviour."

Last year's road Easter road toll was also three, while there were no deaths in 2012. The highest recorded number of deaths is 21 in 1971.

As with other holiday periods, police have lowered their tolerance of speeding drivers to 4km/h, and Mr Brown encouraged drivers to watch their speed and give themselves time to react.

Auckland's motorways are expected to be busy, though perhaps not as congested as previous Easter Mondays.

NZ Transport Agency spokesman Ewart Barnsley said with school holidays beginning and another public holiday on Friday, many travellers might put off their return to the city.

He expected congestion around Wellsford on State Highway 1, and in northern Waikato on SH1 and SH2.

"We do encourage drivers coming back into Auckland from up north to consider using SH16 as an alternative route."

All roads in the Auckland and Northland regions were open but Mr Barnsley advised motorists to take extreme care for damage caused by Cyclone Ita.

"There's still the risk of small slips or surface flooding or trees or branches that night have been shaken by the strong winds, which cold potentially be a hazard for driving, particularly at night."

Elsewhere in the North Island, a slip has blocked SH16 near Rotorua, between Dudley Rd to Hamurana Junction, although it could re-open tomorrow. Heavy wind warnings are in place for the Desert Rd and SH2 over Rimutaka Hill.

In the South Island, a slip on SH1 between Blenheim and Kaikoura has traffic down to one lane.

*Easter road toll so far (holiday period starts at 4pm Thursday and finishes at 6am Tuesday).

- Yulane Cadigan, a 44-year-old woman from Twizel died died in a crash on the Fairlie-Tekapo Rd in South Canterbury about 5.20pm on Thursday.

* Helensville woman Alofaifo Afaese, 40, died instantly when the Mitsubishi Pajero she was travelling in with her husband and two of their children was involved in a head-on collision on SH16 west of Kumeu at 7pm on Thursday.

* About 3.15am on Friday, pedestrian Alan Hammond, 80, of Ashburton, was struck by a vehicle on the Hinds-Rangitata Highway in South Canterbury.

- APNZ

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