A fatal smash on Pyes Pa Rd has been described as a ''tragedy'' and brings this year's road toll to at least 63 in the Bay of Plenty district - 12 more than last year.
It is the highest police district toll in New Zealand this year to date, with Canterbury following with a road toll of 40.
In the Western Bay police area, 13 people have died so far this year from 11 crashes, which Bay of Plenty Road Policing Acting Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter said was an improvement.
"When you break the Western Bay out we are tracking very well bearing in mind we had 18 deaths on our roads last year," he said.
''These things just happen and unfortunately, we cannot predict when or where they are going to happen.
"But we are on our way to a 5 per cent reduction of fatalities from last year which we had hoped for."
His comments come as the Serious Crash Unit investigates a crash involving a single vehicle on State Highway 36 yesterday where one person died at the scene.
From the crash site, Hunter said early indications were the driver lost control, crossed the road and hit a tree about 6.20am.
At this stage, he believed a seatbelt was not worn.
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A lone shoe could be seen near the vehicle while further in the grass lay a rugby ball.
Western Bay of Plenty Kaimai ward councillor Don Thwaites called Monday's crash a "tragedy."
"I feel for the family," he said.
"Ten is too many, let alone 13. We need to get that down to single digits," he said.
"It's just too many. It doesn't make good reading."
Thwaites, who travelled the highway regularly, believed the road was good because council had spent "a couple of million" on extensive upgrades when it became a state highway in 2005.
He said the death toll and "on-going debate" around whether to lower the speed limit would be one of the first things on the new council's agenda, which was due to be sworn in on Thursday.
He believed, generally speaking, speed was the biggest contributor to the road toll.
While drivers tended to drop to 50kmh around the gorge, he believed some sped in other areas to trim minutes off the drive.
"It's such a short trip now but people push it because they think they're saving time."
This year alone there have been three serious, two minor and five non-injury crashes on the Pyes Pa Rd, creating a total of 10 - not including the fatality yesterday.
Current Joint Road Safety Committee chairwoman and Western Bay District councillor Margaret Murray-Benge said infrastructure needed to meet the region's needs and in her view it was not doing so.
"You cannot live in a growth area with a booming population and expect that you don't need to invest in infrastructure and all will be well.
"It is an ideology that is twisted and unhelpful to the health and wellbeing of this district."
NZ Transport Agency Bay of Plenty system manager Rob Campbell said the agency had invested heavily in SH36 over the past several years.
"This was to provide both a safe route and the capacity to cater for the increasing growth in the region.''
He said as part of the Safe Network Programme, SH36 speeds would be reviewed in the future to determine what its safe and appropriate speeds should be.
"The Transport Agency will engage with and consult the community about this at the appropriate time."
Police could not answer whether State Highway 36 was considered a dangerous road when questioned.
"Police are not aware of any particular issue with Pyes Pa Rd," a police spokeswoman said
"As always we would recommend people slow down, drive to the conditions, wear restraints and ensure children are also wearing appropriate restraints."
Bay of Plenty road policing manager Inspector Brent Crowe said one death on the region's roads was one too many.
"This year 63 people started a journey on a Bay of Plenty road and did not make their destination.
"The sudden and completely unnecessary death of these 63 people has left a huge void in the lives of those they have left behind," Crowe said.
"In the lead up to the summer months police implore every road user to remain focussed and drive safely, refrain from alcohol and drugs, drive within posted speed limits and to the conditions and ensure that all in the vehicle wear a seat belt."
There have been 63 deaths on Bay of Plenty roads this year:
Western Bay of Plenty: 13 fatalities from 10 crashes
Eastern Bay of Plenty: 13 fatalities from 11 crashes
Rotorua: 7 fatalities from 7 crashes
Taupō: 30 fatalities from 13 crashes.
Around the region 2018 - 2017 - 2016
Rotorua: 11- 4 - 8
Taupo: 14 - 22 - 13
Western Bay: 18 - 14 - 19
Eastern Bay: 7 - 7 - 6
Bay of Plenty total: 51 - 47 - 46
- Additional reporting Jean Bell