A man missing for a week was found dead in his waterlogged car on Sunday, prompting a renewed police focus on rural drinking and driving in the Eastern Bay.
Road policing manager Sergeant Chris Howard said police were working with local hapu and iwi to make sure people returned home safely from rural events and such tragedies were prevented.
"Iwi are supportive of us giving them guidance and they run really good drink driving programmes for people."
Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick said the man was last seen at a marae function on the evening of April 22.
He crashed into the river near his farm access on Matahi Valley Rd.
"He had been missing quite a while before finding his car submerged in the river and his body in the car,"
Investigations into the man's death are ongoing.
However, Fenwick said police believed alcohol might have been involved.
"From a road safety point of view, it highlights the dangers of drink driving. Even if it's roads you know, so much can go wrong," he said.
"There's no reason to leave a marae – there's usually plenty of places to sleep. No one wins when people decide to drive drunk."
Alcohol was also suspected as a factor in a crash on Saturday night after a man left a tangi at Ruatoki marae.
He was travelling along Reid Rd about 7pm when he hit a power pole, taking down the pole and the lines.
The man then abandoned the vehicle, and he was still unknown to police.
"We're noticing an increase in crashes involving alcohol and we want this to stop," Howard said.
"If you are at a gathering or function, look after your mates and don't let them get in the car and drive.
"Provide alternative transport in the rural areas if you're organising a function; be a responsible host."
Howard said police would be increasing checkpoints, especially in rural areas, to assist in reducing the number of intoxicated drivers on the road.
"We'll be doing the usual checkpoints, but they'll be popping up more frequently in the rural areas because that seems to be where the drink driving is happening more."
- Whakatāne Beacon