Yet another fatality on Sunday night is part of a sharp escalation in the road toll across the central North Island and countrywide.

It comes after a sole occupant of a vehicle died when their car hit a tree 10 km east of Wairoa on State Highway 2 shortly before 6pm.

Police said the serious crash unit is investigating.

Read more: Police ask for help as they investigate Awatoto tragedy
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Teen named following fatal crash near Napier

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The road toll for the year in the police Eastern District to September 3 was provisionally put at 15, after 18-year-old Ava Powell died in a two-vehicle crash on September 3 on SH2 in the Napier suburb of Awatoto shortly after 11pm, when the vehicle she was travelling in collided with a truck.

This is compared with 20 for the same eight-month period of last year, while the national toll was 255, the same as at the same stage of 2017.

According to Ministry of Transport online statistics up to Sunday night there had been 61 deaths on roads in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, Manawatu-Wanganui (which includes Dannevirke and the wider Tararua district), and Taranaki this year.

It almost doubles the toll across the central North Island in two years. There were 46 fatalities in the area to September 3 last year, and 31 in the same eight-month period of 2016.