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Wairarapa aims to keep road toll at 0

By Brendan Manning

The holiday driving crackdown began at the weekend, with hopes Wairarapa can end the year with a zero road toll.

Operation Unite, a joint New Zealand and Australian police project, saw officers concentrating on alcohol-fuelled crashes and crime.

Wairarapa police yesterday could not provide any information about how many people were caught locally in the blitz.

But at a national level, police said the operation had resulted in 448 arrests, 170 reported assaults, 135 licence breaches, and 364 drink drive offences.

The crackdown followed a horror start to the summer, with several fatal crashes around the country on the previous weekend.

Seven people, including five motorcyclists, died on the first weekend of December on North Island roads, while more than a dozen people were injured.

The road toll for the year to date now stands at 282 - up from 262 at the same time last year - and just shy of 2011's 50-year low of 284.

There have been no fatal car crashes in Wairarapa this year. Last year's road toll in the region was five.

Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said police were pleased with the minimal road toll and hoped to keep it that way.

"We want to ensure that it continues over the holiday season," she said.

Many accidents happened close to home, so people who were driving long distances needed to be more aware on the home stretch.

"We urge people to be patient driving the country and, if they're tired, pull over."

National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said that, as the holiday season approached, drivers must decide whether to drink or drive before heading out.

"Don't go out and have a couple of drinks and then try and make a decision during the night if you're going to drive home or not."

Motorcyclists needed to execute extreme caution when riding in larger groups to avoid more tragedies.

Nationally, last year's road toll was the lowest in more than 50 years, with 284 people killed, compared with 375 in 2010, 384 in 2009, and 366 in 2008.

The last time the road toll was below 300 before that was in 1952, when 272 people died.


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