Hundreds of families are missing loved ones this Christmas as a result of road crashes on New Zealand roads this year.
The road toll stands at 345 this year after three people were killed yesterday. Two people died and one person was seriously injured after a crash on State Highway 5 in Rangitaiki near Taupō just before 1.30pm. Another person was killed in a two-car crash on SH25A, on the Coromandel Peninsula. It brings the toll for December to 26.
Last year, according to the Ministry of Transport, 377 died people died on our roads.
The official holiday road toll begins today at 4pm and the Herald and police are urging everyone on the roads to take extra care, to protect yourself and others, and drive to survive.
"What would my Christmas wish be for all New Zealanders? What would I say if I knew everyone would listen?" said National road policing manager acting Superintendent Amelia Steel.
"I would wish nobody would ever have to know the pain of losing a loved one on the road.
"I would wish they never had us turn up at their door to tell them their loved one is never coming home again.
"And what would I say? I would say please drive with the same care and attention you would provide to a young child learning to cross the road, the same attention you would give teaching someone to drive."
Steel said driving was something most people did often, and it was easy to become complacent.
"But we shouldn't. I've seen first-hand the consequences of that complacency," she said.
"The zoning out and taking the task for granted.
"That 'oh it's just a few kilometres over the limit'.
"These actions can lead to death – which could be yours or someone else's.
"Death is not a justifiable price for attempting to arrive somewhere a few minutes faster.
"Is it worth a year of rehab because you just had to check that text? All actions have a consequence. It's never okay to compromise safety."
Steel said despite endless police messaging around speed, drink driving, using phones behind the wheel and seatbelts - some people just would not listen.
"Some think they are the exception," she said.
"Nobody is the exception.
"Those people may not be here next week, or they may have taken somebody else's life.
"People die on the road every week.
"In between me writing this and the paper printing it, more people will likely have died. That's the sad reality on New Zealand roads."
Steel had a simple but vital message for all road users.
"I want them to listen to few small actions that have a huge impact and could save their life; put on your seatbelt, focus on your driving, put your phone away, watch your speed, and make sure you are always sober and alert when you drive," she said.
"That is my Christmas wish."
A 4km speed tolerance has been in place since 4pm on December 20 and will remain so until 6am on Monday January 13.
Anyone caught driving more than 4km over the posted speed limit will be ticketed.
"Police focus is on ensuring people are driving safely and to the conditions," said Steel.
"Speed limits are there for a reason and we expect them to be adhered to, and for people drive to the conditions – this may mean driving below the limit in bad or wet weather or high traffic situations.
"Our officers will still have discretion in how they deal with incidents and how they are enforced.
"Their focus will be on preventing harm on our roads."
Police Minister Stuart Nash said every cop in the country - not just those patrolling the roads - would be keeping an eye out for bad driving behaviour this holiday season.
"Just be sensible," he said.
"The thing about the road toll is if you look at the stats, the people who actually obey the rules get to where they are going.
"We have 1000 more police out there than we did a year ago and even though only some are dedicated to road policing, every single cop driving around the country does have the responsibility for road safety.
"The last thing that the police want to do is attend road accidents - that's why they go hard."
Road safety charity Brake is also calling on motorists to give the road their full attention and avoid taking risks this holidays.
"Already this year more than 300 families have been given the devastating news that a loved one won't be coming home," said director Caroline Perry.
"This time of year can be particularly risky because lots of us drive long distances with our families, risking fatigue, distractions and speeding in order to get to our destination.
"But the consequence could be that you don't get there at all. We want everyone to get to their destination safely and enjoy the holiday period, so slow down, keep your attention on the road and take regular breaks."
Stay safe, arrive alive - tips for holiday driving
Slow: Drive within speed limits, drive at 30km/h or lower in communities, and slow down on rural roads too. Avoid overtaking unless you're sure it's safe.
Sober: If driving, don't drink any alcohol, or take any illegal drugs or medication that could affect your driving.
Sharp: Drive alert – not tired, ill or stressed. Plan your journey so you have plenty of time, and take breaks every two hours on long journeys. Have an eye test at least every two years and wear glasses or contact lenses if needed.
Silent: Phone off or on message service. Minimise other distractions as much as possible, such as fiddling with sat nav/GPS or tuning the radio.
Secure: Always belt up and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does the same, and adjust head restraints. If travelling with children, ensure you have correctly fitted, appropriate child restraints.
Sustainable: Only drive when you have to.
Source: Brake, the road safety charity