According to police, one Far North teenager who was killed and another who was critically injured in separate crashes last week would have escaped with minor injures if they'd taken basic safety precautions.
A 19-year-old Pawarenga man died on Wednesday afternoon when he lost control the motorcycle he was riding on Awaroa Rd, near Broadwood. He was not wearing a helmet.
Less than two hours earlier a 16-year-old girl was critically injured when she was thrown from a car that crashed into a drain on the Waipapakauri Straight. She was unlicensed driver and was not wearing a seat belt.
Crash analyst Senior Constable Jeff Cramp said the inexperienced motorcyclist was on a Harley Davidson that had been deregistered and was in disrepair. It appeared that he had been following friends and family members in a car when he failed to take a corner on the sealed road, and crashed into a farm fence. He suffered severe head injuries, and died at the scene.
Speed was not thought to be a factor, Cramp said, although he may have been trying to keep up with the car, but inexperience almost certainly was. And he believed that the teenager would almost certainly would have survived had he been wearing a helmet.
The earlier crash followed the driver's attempt an overtaking manoeuvre having failed to see a car approaching from the other direction. She swerved to avoid a head-on collision, the car crashing into the drain, travelling some 50 metres and flipping or rolling (according to witnesses) before coming to a halt facing the way it had come.
A driver who witnessed the crash told the 'Northland Age' that he estimated the car's speed at 140-150km/h.
Neither occupant was restrained, the driver, who was thrown from the vehicle as it rolled, suffering life-threatening injuries. She was flown to Auckland Hospital by rescue helicopter in a critical condition. The following day she was described as in a stable condition in intensive care.
Cramp described the passenger as "walking wounded,'' with moderate injuries, adding that both would likely have suffered only minor injuries had they been wearing seat belts.
''Seatbelts and helmets save lives, there's no doubt about it,'' he said.
Last month a 22-year-old man suffered critical head injuries while riding on a motorbike at Te Tii without a helmet. He is believed to be recovering.
The motorcyclists's death took Northland' road toll for the year to date to 15, one more than at the same time last year, despite the Covid-19 lockdown emptying the roads of traffic for five weeks.
Although both of last week's crashes involved teenagers, Far North REAP road safety educator Jodi Betts said the group with the biggest increase in road fatalities was men aged 29-59.
''It's not just young people. It's people not getting the basics right. Even before the lockdown guys weren't looking after themselves or thinking about keeping themselves and others on the roads safe,'' she said.
Some drivers were being caught out by the change from dry roads to wet, or were stressed and fatigued because they'd had to change shifts or take on extra work due to the Covid crisis.
''People are in quite a different headspace than before the lockdown," Betts added.
"Some of the driving is diabolical. People are taking enormous risks.''