The Government should review its police pursuit policy and consider the merits of an outright ban, the Automobile Association says.

The call follows the deaths of three people in a high speed chase in the Tasman district yesterday - part of a deadly weekend on the country's roads that claimed eight lives.

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said one-in-five police pursuits ended in crashes. Banning pursuits was "something we should look at and see how it is working in other conditions".

Similar measures were already in place in the Australian state of Queensland, except where the driver was involved in a murder or considered an imminent threat to life.


His comment drew qualified support last night from the Police Association, which told the Herald "everything should be on the table" - though added any changes shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction to tragic events.

Association president Chris Cahill said about 3500 pursuits took place last year. If they had not occurred there would be many dangerous drivers still on the road, he said.

The penalty for fleeing should be an "aggravating factor" that made people say "this is not worth it".

"It would have an effect on adult offenders, but juvenile offenders it can be a bit more complex.

"The tragedy is what these families lost today, our officers are totally traumatised about what they have had to go through. It is needless.

"They are very upset by it and traumatised as you can understand."

Cahill said the decision to continue a pursuit was not made by the officer on scene but a controller in the police communications room.

"That takes away the adrenaline rush."

Advertisement editor Clive Matthew-Wilson is also pushing for a ban on pursuits, except where life was in danger.

"What I'm suggesting is that the police back away from pursuits of the type that just resulted in a multiple fatality.

"The current system inevitably ends up killing people, and the dead people are often totally innocent parties," Matthew-Wilson said.

His comment follows a horror weekend on New Zealand's roads with eight lives lost and at least one other person critically injured in hospital.

The driver fleeing police near Nelson tried to overtake a truck about 5.40am on Sunday but collided with an on-coming vehicle on State Highway 6, killing three people.

One of the victims was an innocent motorist in the oncoming car.

On average, about 10 drivers flee police every day. Between October 2016 and September last year, seven deaths and 552 crashes were recorded. Six people have died in police pursuits in the last five months alone.

Yesterday's crash brought the year's national road toll to 77 - nine more than at the same time last year.

Noon told the Herald the AA was concerned to see the road toll rising.

He said it reflected the type of vehicles on our roads, substance abuse impairing drivers and people over-correcting behind the wheel.

The AA wanted more money spent on safety improvements to roads such as median barriers on rural highways and rumble strips.

Vehicles also needed electronic stability control and curtain airbags to improve survival rates.

Safety rating information should be made available on all vehicles at the point of sale.

Referring to the weekend's fatal crashes, national manager for road policing Superintendent Steve Greally said: "This is particularly tragic, especially for their whanau ... people presumably of good health, they had a future yesterday, but now they are gone."

Police national manager for road policing Superintendent Steve Greally. Photo / John Borren
Police national manager for road policing Superintendent Steve Greally. Photo / John Borren

Greally said the crashes were often a result of poor decision making, and failure to drive to the conditions.

"We've got to adjust the way we behave on our roads, it's not too difficult," he said.

Tasman Police District commander Superintendent Mike Johnson said a fatal pursuit was "extremely testing" for police, who aimed to protect their community.

"They are fast-moving, unpredictable and high-pressure situations that require quick judgements."

Yesterday's crash would be investigated and the Independent Police Conduct Authority had been notified.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said while he could not comment on the AA's request, he had asked for an update on a review into police chases which commenced in July.

The review followed a spate of pursuit crashes and deaths last year.

"Police are currently working closely with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) to review their policies and practices around these unpredictable events and I have asked for an update on progress in this review which is due to be completed later this year," Nash said.

The joint evaluation is headed by New Zealand Police and the IPCA and would look into all pursuits notified to the authority, covering about 75 chases.

"Fleeing drivers are always a highly challenging law and order event for police.

"Currently they deal with about 300 of these complex situations every month," Nash said.

Police had to make instant decisions based on the circumstances in front of them at the time, and the road and traffic conditions as well, he said.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said "the Labour-led Government wants to invest more in making our roads safer to reduce the number of people dying and being hurt".

"The Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport will make safety one of the top priorities of our transport system."

A draft GPS was expected to be released shortly for public feedback.

Fatal crashes this weekend:

• Three dead in Nelson, Marlborough. Sunday 5.40am.

• One dead in Hikurangi, Northland. About midnight Saturday.

• Two dead north of Kaeo, Far North. 2.20pm Saturday.

• Two dead near Whakapapa, central North Island. 6.40am Saturday.