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Keep yourself, family and friends safe this summer

Opinion Piece

Drownings and road deaths have cast a pall on New Zealand’s Christmas holiday and reinforced the need for caution as another busy four-day holiday approaches.

The death of a diver at Tolaga Bay yesterday brought the holiday drownings toll to eight, while road fatalities now total five.

The range of the ages of drowning victims, which extend from a three-year-old boy to an 80-year-old woman, illustrate how all-pervading are the risks associated with New Zealand’s many water-borne leisure activities.

There has to be sympathy for Water Safety New Zealand which issues its annual warnings at this time of the year. As chief executive Matt Claridge said, it was “gutting” for the organisation. The latest drowning death brings the total to 100, compared with 90 last year.

As families grieve it would be insensitive to try and speculate on the causes but the main messages are unchanged: always take care in the water, do not overestimate your abilities (males in particular) and keep a constant watch on small children.

The road toll this morning stood at five and while one death is one too many, that is on a par with last year. National road policing manager Steve Greally says they are “cautiously optimistic” that things will not get worse.

What would stagger many people is the fact that since the start of the Christmas holiday period, the number of reported crashes nationwide is fast climbing towards 400.

At the start of the holiday period, the road toll for 2015 already stood at 313 compared with 280 in 2014.

As with keeping safe around water, the road safety directive remains the same as it has for decades: slow down and don’t take risks. Road accidents took more than 300 lives last year and although the figures have fallen on those of a decade ago, there is never any room for complacency.

While Christmas is the great annual family holiday, New Year celebrations have much more of a party theme — and the wishes for that, even more so, are have fun, take care and be safe.