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Carnage on our roads a tragedy

Opinion Piece

New Zealand has suffered a road fatality disaster less than a month on from the Christchurch shootings, and this time the deaths are entirely preventable.

The road toll surged massively last week with 27 people killed in just nine days, plus two more at the weekend — more than half the number who died at Christchurch.

This is an amazing tally of carnage and needless loss of lives, sending the toll on our roads to 112 so far this year.

The victims include a two-year-old and five members of one family.

Yet again a number of those involved in the accidents were not wearing their seatbelts.

New Zealand is now on track to pass last year’s grim total of 378, the worst figure since 2009.

All this is happening despite the Government spending $1 billion on road improvements, not to mention millions on a safety campaign.

Less than a decade ago the total was falling and there was even talk of zero road deaths. That seems ludicrous now.

Gisborne District Council got an indication of what these disasters mean to families when Erin and David Jones, the mother and brother of Erica Jones — who died in a crash at Tatapouri Hill last year — made their plea for a concrete central barrier on the hill. While the highway is the responsibility of the NZ Transport Agency, the council can exert influence.

The council also got the message about rural roads all last week at its cuppa meetings, from residents faced with substandard and dangerous roads. While $137m is due from the Provincial Growth Fund for improvements, the onus is on local as well as central government.

What is really frustrating for the Government is that its expensive safety messages are just not getting through to drivers.

One thing it can do is come down harder on drink drivers, so the Government should be worried about the steep fall in breath-testing by police in recent years.

Speeding drivers are at least as big a problem. On any long distance trip you can expect to see risky overtaking and cars crossing the centre line.

Road safety is a huge headache but one the Goverment must continue to battle with.