The number of alcohol-related crashes on state highways in the Western Bay of Plenty last year was almost double the yearly average for the previous four years, new figures show.

And a large proportion of drivers getting behind the wheel drunk are adults who could take lessons from today's teens about not drinking and driving, says the Western Bay's top roading police officer.

New data released by the New Zealand Transport Agency showed 15.3 per cent of crashes in which people were killed or seriously injured on the region's state highways last year involved alcohol as a factor, compared to a yearly average of 6.4 per cent in the previous four years.

Nine crashes fell within this category last year compared to an average of 4.8 between 2010-2014.


Alcohol-related crashes on local urban roads also increased from 7.4 per cent of crashes to 8.5 per cent.

The biggest contributor to crashes in the region last year was poor observation, involved in 20.3 per cent of all crashes on urban local roads.

Poor observation was also the highest contributing factor in the 59 fatal and serious crashes in the Western Bay last year, sitting at 46 per cent of crashes.

Western Bay head of road policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said the under 20s were leading the way in drink driving reduction.

"The adults could learn quite a bit from them. Adults are very quick to blame young people but, in terms of alcohol impaired driving, the under 20s are leading the way at the moment in the Western Bay of Plenty. I'm extremely pleased, they deserve a pat on the back."

Mr Campion said it was "extremely disappointing" to see an increase in alcohol-related crashes, especially given the lower levels introduced in 2014. He said there had been a significant increase in drink driver apprehensions in the last 12 months.

"What's disappointing about that is it's the middle-aged and upwards drivers who are becoming the worst offenders."

Local man Roy Nathan, who has spoken to youths in the past of his guilt after being involved in a fatal crash, said the region's drink driving statistics were concerning.

Mr Nathan believed the best way to bring the number of alcohol-related crashes down was through a family approach. He felt campaigns such as television advertising had not made much impact.

"It's got to be a family approach, we've got to look after our own families and make the right choices and decisions to not let our loved ones get behind the wheel.

"Families have got to take responsibility for their loved ones.

"It's not the alcohol, it's what we do under the influence of alcohol, and the choices we make can have a life changing affect not just to ourselves and our intrinsic family members."

NZTA acting Bay of Plenty highways manager Chris Young said every crash resulting in death or serious injury on the road was a tragedy.

"The people who are involved in road crashes are not just statistics, and crash figures don't tell the story of the huge impact on family and friends when loved ones are killed or seriously injured."

The agency was working with police, councils and communities throughout the country to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the road. It played a part by working to make roads and roadsides more forgiving in a crash and in the Western Bay, this includes projects such as the Tauranga Eastern Link, the Bayfair to Baypark project, weather-activated speed signs on State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Range and $5 million of safety works between Tauranga and Waihi.