Police have experienced a 70 per cent drop in crashes on Western Bay of Plenty roads during Covid-19 lockdown levels 3 and 4 but all of that is now expected to change with the introduction of level 2.
Western Bay of Plenty acting head of road policing Sergeant Wayne Hunter said there had been so few crashes since the lockdown began, he initially thought he must have got his latest crash report wrong.
"But I went and did it again and again and they [crashes numbers] really were that low."
A week by week breakdown reveals police responded to an average of eight crashes a week since March 25, the day New Zealand went into lockdown.
"We usually go to about 25 to 30 a week," Hunter said.
Some weeks during lockdown recorded as few as five crashes.
Hunter said the drop in crashes was clearly linked to fewer vehicles on the road as part of the lockdown. Now, he was now bracing for those numbers to rise as traffic returned to the road.
"We just know the volume of cars on the road will increase. We will be out there like it's a normal day, pre-Covid.
"People need to make sure they are not distracted, make sure they are not on the phone.
"School's going back as well. There will be a lot of people walking and cycling so people need to be mindful of them also."
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While there was a surge in traffic volumes back on the roads on Thursday, when New Zealand went into level 2, Hunter said there was no increase in crash numbers, yet.
"Another week will tell," Hunter said.
In a Regional Transport Meeting held last week Bay of Plenty roading police manager Inspector Brent Crowe said the district had experienced a dramatic shift in fatal crashes, partly because of Covid-19.
"If there is an upside to all of this, it's the fact our numbers ... unfortunately death, that's dramatically reduced."
Crowe said the Bay of Plenty, which included Taupō, was currently representative of 12 per cent of New Zealand's road toll for the year to date.
"Last year we were 48 per cent, so that's a good news story," he said.
Crowe said this was because of a "significantly reduced" volume of traffic on the roads, plus a higher police presence.
"[We're] really looking forward to getting back to level 2 and level 1 when we can focus on speed and distraction, impairments and maintain what we are doing so we have a head start in reducing death and serious injury."
Last year, 75 people were killed in crashes on Bay of Plenty roads including the tragic Chinese bus tour crash near Rotorua in which five tourists died.
Crowe said the death toll was extraordinary and horrific.
"I hope to never see it again."
Under level 2, people are allowed to travel around their region and domestic tourism is allowed provided people adhere to social distancing rules. Other freedoms such as shopping and dining out are also allowed, with provisions.