Road safety head urges more care as toll soars

By alisa.yong@age.co.nz -
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Safety supremo calls on all to take more care as toll mounts

SMASH: Serious crashes, like the one which hospitalised a Carterton woman last weekend, have become far too frequent in Wairarapa.PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
SMASH: Serious crashes, like the one which hospitalised a Carterton woman last weekend, have become far too frequent in Wairarapa.PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

It's time people stopped pointing the finger and took a good look at their own driving, says a Wairarapa road safety advocate.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling says he is alarmed by the number of serious crashes being racked up by Wairarapa drivers, with the district's road toll already sitting at six fatalities just halfway through the year.

People needed to stop being complacent and take a second look at intersections, Mr Pauling said.

"It's really time for people to take a look at their own driving. We are great ones for pointing the finger, we really are.

"There are just some people who seem to blame everything on young drivers, and sure, they've got some issues because of their age and inexperience but the thing is there's a lot of crashes out there that aren't young drivers. There are local people who are getting complacent."

It only took a few seconds for things to "turn to custard".

"It's time that our local drivers concentrated on respecting other road users by putting safe practices into place. Otherwise there is going to be more trauma and tragedy on our local roads and I don't want to see that," he said.

"At the end of the day if people drove like they were sitting their driving test and there was a driving instructor sitting next to them, we wouldn't have these crashes - there's something about people getting complacent and not following the basic rules of safe driving."

A police officer for 30 years before he took up his role on the Road Safety Council, Mr Pauling said he could still remember the first fatal crash he attended, back in 1983.

"I can remember every fatal that I attended, and I lost count. I still remember the first one in Kaiwharawhara in 1983. They all stick with you, 20 to 35 years [later]."

Dealing with people's loss took its toll, he said.

"I always felt so much for the families - you just do your job to the best of your ability but everyone's human and you feel this huge sense of loss and grief."

The cost of a serious injury crash was calculated at more than half a million dollars, rising to $3.4 million for a fatality, he said. The costs take into account several factors, including medical treatment, rehabilitation and lost income.

A 20-year-old Martinborough man will be charged with careless driving after crashing into a power pole on Kokotau Rd and fleeing the scene last weekend.

Police have also issued a formal warning to a 32-year-old Wellington driver who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed through a fence, downing power lines on State Highway 2 earlier this month.

A crash near Parkvale Mushrooms which hospitalised a Carterton woman, a crash at the intersection of Norman Ave and SH2, and a crash involving a learner driver, all of which took place within about three weeks, are still under investigation.

Mr Pauling said it was "miraculous" there had not been more deaths, based on how serious some of these crashes had been.

"All we want is for people to learn from mistakes."

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