Horror start to 2016 as road toll stands at 64

By Scott Yeoman, Regan Schoultz

Emergency services attend the scene of a double fatal crash in Canterbury. Photo / Supplied via Christchurch Westpac Helicopter
Emergency services attend the scene of a double fatal crash in Canterbury. Photo / Supplied via Christchurch Westpac Helicopter

It has been a horror start to the year on New Zealand roads with the death toll jumping up 16 per cent compared with 2015.

The road toll sits at 64 marking a stark increase on 2015 when there were 55 deaths in the first two months of the year and 41 for the same period in 2014.

The past week alone saw 16 people lose their lives on the road.

Since last Wednesday two people died in separate single-vehicle crashes on rural roads -- one in Southland and the other in Waikato.

Then Chantelle Giles, John Bayne and his sister, Cherylene Bayne, died in a fiery collision between a car and a milk tanker in Patea on Thursday.

John Alexander Horn from Invercargill, 54, also died on Thursday when his motorcycle collided with a car in North Otago.

On Friday there were five road deaths.

Julia Mayer and Kathrin Schmitt -- 19-year-old German nationals -- were killed in Fiordland when their car was crushed by a falling tree.

A 19-year-old Hamilton teenager also died on Friday after he lost control and crashed into a tree, and there were two other fatal crashes in Manawatu and Gisborne.

Meanwhile on Saturday, three people died as a result of a crash in Te Kuiti in rural Waikato, including a 9-year-old boy.

Leroy John Brown was the youngest of the three to die, along with a 59-year-old man from Ashburton and a 45-year-old Northland woman who succumbed to her injuries and died in hospital overnight last night.

Yesterday afternoon a 32-year-old male and a 34-year-old female died in a crash in Canterbury, after a car and a truck collided.

Ministry of Transport land transport safety manager Brent Johnston said road deaths had had a devastating impact on the families of the victims.

"Every one of these deaths has left families, friends and communities grieving. We must work together to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads."

He urged drivers to "always drive within the speed limit and to the conditions, minimise distractions in the car, and make sure that they, and everyone in the car, is appropriately buckled up".

"Road safety is everyone's responsibility and drivers can make a difference. Make sure that your vehicle is well maintained and that you are fit to drive by not being tired or impaired by alcohol or drugs."

Statistics released by the Ministry of Transport showed 46 of thosewho died in the past two months were males while 18 were females.

There were 32 drivers killed, 17 passengers and 11 motorcycle riders. Two pedal cyclists died in road incidents, as well as one pedestrian and one unclassified fatality.

Meanwhile, twice as many people have died in crashes while not wearing seat belts this summer compared with last summer.

National manager of road policing Superintendent Steve Greally said motorists not wearing seat belts had been a particularly big issue over the Christmas period.

"When you compare the Christmas period from this time to the one we had last, the numbers have doubled from 11 to 22 deaths so those people weren't wearing their seat belts and it is absolutely brainless stuff when you think about it.

"The last three years they have averaged 57 but in 2015 it went up to 92 people who died who were not wearing their belts. It is a staggering statistic when you think about those people, most of them might be here today if they had their belt on."

AA Motoring Affairs communications adviser Dylan Thomsen said it was a trend also worrying the AA.

"One of the things that was really concerning to the AA was the number of people who died in crashes who weren't wearing seatbelts.

"In some cases there seems to be some people out there who are making some really poor choices but there is no simple answers. In a whole lot of areas we have seen an increase in fatal crashes."

To try and combat the issue, the police have kick-started a nationwide campaign to get people to wear their seat belts this week.

But it was just one of many issues. Other issues which had affected the death toll were motorists not paying attention while driving, not driving to the conditions, driving while under the influence and speeding.

Mr Thomsen said there were a number of measures the AA wanted to see implemented which could drastically improve the road toll.

"One of the key things is having more medium barriers and safety barriers on our high risk roads. There is a lot of scope to make our highways [safer] for people who make mistakes.

"We have also got a serious problem with repeat drink-drivers. The AA wants to see alcohol inter-locks -- an in-car breathaliser which requires the driver to provide a breath test before their car will start -- to become mandatory for recidivist drink drivers," he said.

"There is also a lot of scope to make people more aware that some cars aren't as safe as others. We would like it to be mandatory for car dealers to have to show safety ratings."

Mr Greally said despite efforts by police to educate drivers, many weren't listening to road safety messages.

"We educate and we enforce and try to prevent these happening by putting out warning messages about what we want people to be doing ... yet some people still don't care and they flout the law and they really have a disregard for other people's well-being.

"The one thing that people can do right now is to change their attitudes around driving on New Zealand roads. We have still got far too many people who drive like idiots endangering themselves and other people and until those people change their behaviours, we are going to be facing this next year as well."

- NZ Herald

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