Northland is the titleholder of some of New Zealand's worst road death and serious injury rates, yet despite the sobering statistics, the message of road safety doesn't appear to be sinking in for all.
According to Waka Kotahi, in the years between 2011 and 2020, 160 people were killed and 734 suffered serious injuries in crashes across Northland's state highway network.
Fatigue, speed, alcohol and lack of seatbelt-wearing have all contributed to a number of road fatalities already this year, with the total death toll at last count for Northland at 12 people.
To counter these preventable deaths and injuries, road safety charity Brake is running its annual Road Safety Week campaign this week, in a bid to create more awareness around road safety in Northland and the rest of the country.
This year's theme, Road Safety Heroes, recognises the work of people across Aotearoa, working to make roads safer — be it road safety professionals, transport planners and engineers, school crossing patrols, road workers or campaigners.
It also celebrates the efforts of emergency services, including those who save lives, at the roadside, in hospitals, and who care for people after a crash.
Caroline Perry, Brake's NZ director, said the charity believed it was everyone's human right to be able to get around in a safe and healthy way each day.
"Road crashes are not accidents — they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps," Perry said.
"Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.
"There are lots of people who work to make our roads safer, to save lives when crashes happen, and to support those affected by crashes."
Kaitaia's Far North REAP provides its own road safety education service, with its Road Safety Team delivering courses and education throughout the year on topics such as reducing alcohol and drug-impaired driving, young drivers, safer speeds, restraint (seatbelt) usage, fatigue awareness, distraction and high-risk driving.
The service also launched the country's first interactive road safety video campaign last December, The Party (set to end this month) which challenges users to make safe choices when heading home from a party.
Far North REAP Road Safety manager Jodi Betts said her team went to a region-wide road safety event in Whangārei yesterday and took with them 32 crosses to represent the total lives lost on Northland roads last year.
"The Road Safety Week Hero Relay was all about celebrating the efforts of the public and regional road safety partners for their efforts in raising awareness about the issue," Betts said.
"It was also an acknowledgement of the lives lost on our roads and a show of respect to those who have passed.
"Northland and the Far North in particular, still have very high statistics per population regarding road deaths and serious injuries caused by alcohol, speeding and lack of wearing seatbelts.
"That's why ongoing education about these topics is so important."
As part of the national Road Safety Week campaign, Far North REAP has nominated long-standing Kaitaia transport service Petricevich Buses as its local road safety hero.
Betts said the family-owned bus company had been instrumental in instigating road safety education initiatives for the district and continued to advocate for better education around road safety and buses.
"We want to thank Petricevich Buses for their generational advocacy in this space and to also recognise the importance of their mahi for this community," Betts said.
"They have used our road safety campaign on the back of their buses and we believe they deserve a shout-out for proactively implementing road safety strategies in the Far North."
Other road safety agencies, emergency services and NGOs have also been involved in supporting Road Safety Week, including NZ Police.
Road policing director Superintendent Steve Greally said road safety was everyone's responsibility, with any road crash potentially a tragedy for those involved, as well as their friends and whānau.
"NZ Police are committed to reducing death and serious injury on our roads, and we work alongside our road safety partners to do this," Greally said.
"But we cannot do it alone — we need everyone to be road safety heroes and help keep our roads safe."
Road Safety Week is sponsored by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Beca and aligns with the roading agency's Road to Zero campaign to reduce all road deaths and injuries to zero by 2030.
Kane Patena, director of land transport, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, said to achieve a vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand with no deaths and serious injuries on our roads, we all needed to work together.
"Every day there are many people working hard to make our roads safer and deliver Road to Zero, New Zealand's road safety strategy," Patena said.
"Road Safety Week is a great opportunity to celebrate these road safety heroes — It takes everyone to get to no one. Mā tātou e kore tētahi e hinga."
The state and speed of Northland's roads have been the topic of much contention in recent months, in particular, Waka Kotahi's announcement earlier this year for plans to review speeds across 707km of Northland's state highway network from 100km/h to 80km/h.
The roading agency said school zones and local townships were the focus of the speed review and public consultation would present the next stage of the roading agency's campaign.
The consultation period will run for one month, closing at 11pm on Tuesday, June 14.
To find out more about Road Safety Week, visit the Road Safety Week website.