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Rising road toll shows need for drivers to take more care

Opinion Piece

Carnage, that is the only word to describe New Zealand’s weekend road toll. And to make it worse, it’s part of a steadily increasing trend.

Ten people died on our roads at the weekend, taking total fatalities this year to 293 — 41 more than at the same time in 2016. Grim projections that a further 60 people will die on our roads before the end of the year were followed by a horror crash north of Taupo on Tuesday where four people died.

The statistics are awful, and everything suggests it is not a temporary spike but a continuing trend. One man who believes this, and one who should know, is road policing manager Steve Greally who said a spike was probably just a one-off, then you reverted to the previous pattern.

“I think we are going up and that it is more than just a spike,” he said.

Between 2000 and 2010, road deaths fell annually by 10.4 percent, but since 2013 they have gone in the opposite direction. A similar trend is being seen in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and Australia.

A visibly upset Greally said on television news that in the past four years, our roads were like a battle zone.

One key comment he made was that the speed limit on many rural roads was too high for their engineering standards. That is particularly relevant to this district. The New Zealand Transport Agency may have to look at urgently revising some of the limits, he says.

Police must also be looking anxiously towards the coming Labour Weekend holiday, the first national holiday of the summer and one where so many take to the roads.

There is a limit to what the police, and indeed the transport agency, can do. For example, the number of fatal crash victims who were not wearing their seatbelts has doubled in the past two years. Speed is seen as the main factor in 30 percent of all deaths on New Zealand roads.

The only lasting solution to the continuing crisis on our roads lies, as it always has, with drivers taking more care.