Police are pleading with motorists to slow down and stop defending their "perceived right to speed" with 10 people already dead on the nation's roads in 2018.

The grim tally puts this year's road toll on par with the same time last year.

The toll for 2017 was the highest it's been in years, reaching a shocking 379 fatalities provisionally, making it the deadliest year on our roads since 2009, when 384 people died.

This year is tracking just as bad, with only one fewer death than in the same period in 2017, when 11 people died from January 1-8.

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Police today launched a new road safety advertising campaign directly challenging speeding drivers to slow down and stop defending their perceived 'right' to speed.

The joint NZ Transport Agency/Police campaign addresses the significant proportion of the driving population who still like to travel at speeds which are too fast for the conditions.

"Every week, 11 people are seriously injured or killed in a speed-related crash on New Zealand roads, but a substantial portion of our society does not see the connection between speed and crashes," NZ Transport Agency director of safety and environment Harry Wilson said.

"That needs to change, because the facts and the physics are indisputable. Speed is always a crucial factor in determining the severity of the crash and the severity of the injuries to the people involved. The simple and inescapable truth is that less speed means less harm in a crash."

Assistant Commissioner for Road Policing Sandra Venables said the consequences of people driving too fast for the conditions could be devastating.

"Police officers see the human cost of speed nearly every day on our roads. Crashes occur due to a wide range of mistakes, whether involuntary or deliberate, but the outcome is vastly different at different speeds.

"Even when speed doesn't cause the crash, it is the single biggest determinant in whether anyone is killed, injured, or walks away unharmed. A small change in speed makes a big difference to injury severity.

"Last year was tragic in terms of fatal and serious injury crashes on our roads. With 10 fatalities this year already, police are hoping the new campaign will contribute to making a difference in driver behaviour. Our plea to all drivers this year is to be courteous and slow down, to make sure you get to your destination safely."

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Already this year there have been nine fatal crashes on our roads.

One of the worst happened near Woodhill last week, claiming two lives and leaving three people in a serious condition.

Two vehicles are pictured at the scene of a crash on State Highway 16, north of Waimauku. Two people died and three were seriously injured in the crash. Photo / Nick Reed
Two vehicles are pictured at the scene of a crash on State Highway 16, north of Waimauku. Two people died and three were seriously injured in the crash. Photo / Nick Reed

The crash happened on SH16 on January 4 when a northbound driver lost control of his vehicle, Waitemata ​Senior Sergeant Jesse Mowat said.

"The driver appears to have drifted into the southbound lane where his vehicle has clipped a van. As a result the driver of the Nissan has veered further into the southbound lane and has effectively had a head-on collision with another vehicle heading south."

The Nissan caught fire and two people in the car died.

The first person to die on New Zealand roads this year was a Tauranga man involved in a crash on State Highway 29a.

The crash happened on a relatively quiet New Year's Eve when the 69-year-old driver was travelling across the Maungatapu Bridge soon after midnight.

Western Bay of Plenty head of road policing Acting Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter said the car the man had been driving crossed the centre line and crashed head-on into a car being driven by a sober driver taking a carload of drunk passengers home.

None of the other people involved were injured, and Hunter did not believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.

In another crash on January 5 one person died and another was left critical when two cars collided in east Auckland.