Huge cost from road crashes

By Teuila Fuatai

The social cost of road crash injuries and fatalities jumped by about $10 million in Wairarapa between 2011 and 2010.

Figures released to the Times-Age from the Transport Ministry revealed road injuries and deaths in Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa cost the community $37.8 million in 2011.

In 2010, the cost stood at $27.6 million, down from $57.1 million in 2009. Figures for 2012 are not yet available.

The social cost includes medical, legal and vehicle damage costs. Loss of life, reduced life quality and the impact of temporary or permanent disabilities caused by crash injuries are also factored in.

Masterton police Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said the figures were far too high.

"Any accident with serious or fatal injury costs the community," Ms Watson said.

She hoped 2012 would have a lower cost figure as there were no fatalities on Wairarapa roads.

Statistics show 120 crashes occurred in the region in 2011, which resulted in nearly 150 casualties. Of these, four were fatal and 22 were serious injuries.

Figures show a slight decline in crash numbers, down from 125 in 2010 and 126 in 2009.

Wairarapa police had clamped down on dangerous drivers, particularly those who speed or drive after drinking, in the past year.

"Our focus on prevention ... has meant more directive patrolling in areas of greater risk such as restraint, speed and alcohol and has contributed to the low road toll," Ms Watson said.

Despite this, people continued to push the limits, she said.

"On New Year's Eve we had seven drink-drivers processed, which is still seven people that shouldn't have been on the road," Mrs Watson said. This was a small percentage of the total number of drivers stopped that night, but it only took one person to kill and maim, she said.

She urged people to take extra care during the summer period.

Nationally, the social cost of road crashes amounted to about $3.14 billion, down from $3.67billion in 2010.

Transport Ministry chief executive Martin Matthews said the reduction was largely due to a 24 per cent drop in the road toll between the two years.

In 2011, 284 people died on the roads, down from 375 in 2010.

The 2011 figure translated to a rate of 6.4 deaths per 100,000 people, the lowest rate in 60 years, Mr Matthews said.

While it was encouraging, it was still too high, he said.

"To give a sense of the size of the cost, $3.14 billion is almost the equivalent of a month's worth of New Zealand's exports," he said.

Statistics also revealed 30 per cent of 2011 fatal crashes were linked to alcohol or drugs.APNZ


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