A man in his 80s is in a critical condition in Hawke's Bay Hospital after the last of a series of crashes that blocked and choked routes between Napier and Hastings on Thursday.
Constable Nathan Ross said the man's car had rear-ended a parked truck on the side of the road at the intersection of Pakowhai Rd and Williams St, Hastings at 10.53am.
Initial investigations suggested the man had had a medical event while behind the wheel, Ross said.
The crash closed Pakowhai Rd, a main arterial route, for the second time in four hours, until noon when the car was removed from the scene.
It was the third crash within a few kilometres on a Thursday morning that saw Hawke's Bay's morning commuters backed up in traffic.
Ross said the day started with a three-vehicle crash on Pakowhai Road, near the Chesterhope Bridge, around 6.30am.
"The car hit the back of a van with so much force that a van hit the back of a ute," he said.
"The van driver was taken to the Hawke's Bay Hospital as a precautionary measure."
He said it was possible the cause of the crash was distraction.
Police were then called to a crash on the southbound lane of the Hawke's Bay Expressway, 200 metres south of the Pakowhai roundabout, about 7.14am.
A truck and two utes collided. No injuries were reported.
The road's southbound lane was blocked for 40 minutes but the vehicles were removed and a spill cleared, by which time traffic had built significantly.
The crash chaos happened on the same day police put out a warning asking drivers to be kind and take extra time on the roads coming up to Queen's Birthday Weekend.
National manager for road policing, acting superintendent Gini Welch said it was the first long weekend since lockdown and people needed to be extra careful on the roads.
"As people prepare to go away for the first long weekend since lockdown, we want to remind them they will be sharing the road with a lot more people than they've been used to for a while," Welch said.
"And with more people comes more risk.
"We need people to remember the basics of road safety; wear your seatbelt, stay within the speed limit and drive to the conditions of the road, put your phone away, always make sure you are sober and alert.
"We want to remind people that there will be traffic and there will be hold-ups, so it's important to stay calm and patient."