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NZ Herald Focus: Cellphone use part of worrying rise in road toll

By Tristram Clayton

A woman critically injured in a crash on State Highway 2 in Lower Hutt yesterday has died in Hutt Hospital.

The fatality brings the road toll to 221 so far this year, 11 more than at the same time last year and a continuation of a worrying increase in road fatalities since the historic low in 2013.

"It's incredibly distressing for all of us involved in trying to keep the road toll low. It's a worrying trend," says Lisa Rossiter from the New Zealand transport agency.

The road toll so far this year is 39 higher than at the same time in 2014.

This year's Queen's Birthday weekend was the worst in 27 years - with eleven people dying over the long weekend.

Lisa Rossiter says the increase in fatalities is occurring across the country and has a range of causes.

"We've still got a very old vehicle fleet in New Zealand. The average age of the fleet is 14 years so many of our cars are still not giving the level of protection in the event of a crash. We've still got unrestrained drivers and passengers and we've still got people not wearing helmets."

Rossiter says the widespread use of cell phones could also be part of the problem.

"There's no doubt that driver distraction is a growing challenge. We are all more and more tempted to check that device when driving. We have got to remember to just put it to one side. It's so easy to make an error and the road is one place where a simple error can be fatal."

- NZ Herald

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