Last year, in the Taupō police area, 33 people died in 15 crashes.
While that sounds bad — and it is more than twice the Taupō police area's road toll of 2018 — depressingly, it's not even the highest annual road toll the Taupō police area, which runs from the Desert Rd summit to north of Putaruru, has recorded.
That number, road policing manager Senior Sergeant Fane Troy recalls, was in the 40s, although he can't tell you the year.
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What he can tell you though, is that one of the features of last year's Taupō area road toll is that it featured several multiple-fatality crashes — tragedies where more than one person lost their life. Just five separate crashes on roads in the Taupō and South Waikato areas in 2019 accounted for 23 deaths.
In April a crash on Tirohanga Rd claimed five members of a Rotorua family. Later that month, on State Highway 1 near Ōhakuri, seven members of a Tokoroa family, including five children, and a Lower Hutt woman in a second vehicle, died in a head-on collision. A few days later, three men died in an early-morning crash on State Highway 1, near Hatepe.
Other multiple-fatality crashes in the Taupō police area included a bus crash on State Highway 5 in the Mamakus which claimed the lives of five tourists and a double fatality near Rangitaiki on December 23.
"We've been in the 40s once or twice going back years," Mr Troy says of the Taupō area road toll. "Thirty-three is not the worst."
2020 is also not off to a good start, with three fatal crashes in three days last month, one at Putaruru on January 22, another on Broadlands Rd near Taupo on January 23, and another nearby, at Rotokawa on January 24. A man is facing charges of dangerous driving causing death relating to the third crash. Mr Troy has labelled all three crashes as "tragic and avoidable".
While all three crashes are still being investigated, he is urging drivers to take more care on the area's roads and says summer driving brings unique challenges, from the increased number of people using them while holidaying, to heat reducing road grip, light showers bringing oils to the surface and making them slippery, through to loose metal from numerous roadworks sites around the district.
In all crashes where there is no criminal offending involved, the case is referred to the Coroner for investigation, which can take some time.
However Mr Troy says one common theme in last year's fatal crashes was restraints — or the lack of them. Adults not wearing seatbelts and children not in car seats were a sad feature of the crashes at Tirohanga, Ohakuri and Hatepe.
"In three of the four multiple-fatality crashes we had people that were not restrained."
Another common factor in three of the four multiple fatality crashes was that they involved vehicles crossing the centre line, Mr Troy said.
"The reasons for them crossing the centre line could be varied and because the files are still before the Coroner I can't say much, but alcohol, drugs and fatigue are all factors that we look at around people crossing centre lines and unfortunately they have played a part in a number of these crashes."
Impairment, whether from alcohol, drugs or fatigue could be deadly and in the case of fatigue, it was probably under-reported as a factor in crashes because it wasn't easily measurable, he said.
"We can prove alcohol or drugs through a test but a person's fatigue factor is hard to measure and it differs from person to person. Some people can operate on five hours sleep a day, others have to have nine or 10 hours.
"Our big message around fatigue is if you're feeling tired, you shouldn't be operating a motor vehicle. Stop, have a break, share the driving on long trips. If you travel for work and you're feeling tired, instead of trying to make it home, stop in another town and stay the night.
"We get a lot of reports from road users complaining of people crossing centre lines and crossing fog lines and erratic speeds approaching corners. That's an indication of a fatigued driver."
While rumble strips can prove useful helping in alerting drivers to when they have strayed out of their lane, they can also have the effect of lulling drivers into a false sense of security that they'll feel the rumbling if they cross the line.
"People hear the rumble strip and wake up and over correct."
Mr Troy says crossing the centre line is "tempting fate" and for anyone involved in a head-on collision it's not a matter of whether they will be injured, but how severe their injuries will be.
He urges drivers to take more care and says patience and courtesy on the roads is required.
In 2018, 16 people died in the Taupō road police area and in 2017 the figure was 23. The Taupō police area historically records road deaths in the high 20s or low 30s every year.
Nationally, the 2019 road toll was 353.
• Be aware of your surroundings.
• Travel at a safe speed.
• Take breaks.
• Don't drive impaired or distracted.
• Always wear your seatbelt properly.
• Fit children's car seats correctly and check they have not expired.
• Secure large items and pets to stop them turning into a missile in a crash.