Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Road deaths prompt warning

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Five people have already died on Rotorua roads this year - the same number as in the entire 2015 - prompting a plea from police for motorists to drive to the conditions as winter conditions such as frost and sunstrike hit.

It comes after Rotorua man Bharatbhai Patel, 51, lost his life when his car hit a tree on Dun Rd in Kaingaroa Village on Sunday.

Senior Sergeant Nicky Riordan, officer in charge of road policing for Rotorua, said police were concerned about any crashes resulting in fatality or serious injury.

With the Rotorua road toll already at last year's total, Ms Riordan said the onset of winter and the speed with which heavy frosts had arrived had led police to reinforce the message motorists needed to drive to the conditions.

She said there had been instances over the past week where ice had still been present on roads later in the afternoon.

Sunstrike was a common problem at this time of year and Ms Riordan said it was particularly bad heading east on roads including Clayton Rd, Sunset Rd and Malfroy Rd between 7.30am and 8.30am.

She said police continued to focus on the "fatal five" - driving behaviours, high-risk drivers, speed, alcohol and seatbelts/child restraints.

Ms Riordan said it was important to make sure vehicles were roadworthy, with tyres, brakes, lights and indicators all up to warrant of fitness standard. Just because a car had a current warrant of fitness didn't mean there weren't problems, particularly with the new 12-month warrant periods.

"Understanding that sunstrike and misted windows obscure views, it is imperative that motorists are allowing sufficient time before leaving home to ensure that their windscreens are free from ice and mist."

She said it was "very common" to see drivers with just a small round patch of their windscreen free from ice.

Police were attending crashes daily and she said many crashes in the past week were the result of people not driving to the conditions, especially with the heavy frosts.

Rotorua Lakes Council road safety co-ordinator Reade Nikora said as part of the driving campaign the council would be working with NZ Transport Agency and Bay of Plenty Regional Council to run a winter driver pit-stop where drivers could learn how to check their cars. It looked at tyres, windows, indicators, rust and lights.

Winter driving tips:

* Slow down and watch your following distances.

* Maintain a four-second following distance between you and the vehicle in front.

* Plan your journey, check weather and road conditions and choose the safest route. If possible avoid travelling in extreme weather and road conditions.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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