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Waikato regional road toll remains “way too high”

8 Mar 2016, 1:15 PM

The Waikato regional road toll remains “way too high” this year, with the region continuing to have the highest number of people dying on our roads nationally following an “awful” 2015, says regional transport committee chair Hugh Vercoe.

“Agencies are working hard to curb the number of road crashes in the wider region but motorists using our roads need to heed safety messages to help end this carnage,” said Cr Vercoe.

His comments follow a report to yesterday’s multi-agency committee meeting. The report showed 68 people died in the Waikato after road crashes in 2015, some 21 per cent of the national total and 16 more than the next highest region, Auckland. It was also the highest Waikato regional road toll in the last five years.

The report said that, as at 23 February, Waikato had 10 fatalities in 2016, three more than Auckland in second place. But regional road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace told the meeting there had been another eight fatalities since then in the region, bringing the year to date total to 18.

“Collectively we need to sharply reduce the number of road crashes to end deaths, injury and heartache for too many families. Each week in the Waikato there are on average 70 crashes, with five of those resulting in someone dying or being seriously injured,” said Cr Vercoe.

”We are driving too fast for our roads and it’s killing us. We should consider the right speed for the road every time we drive. Many of our roads are unforgiving and leave no room for error. We need to drive to the conditions.

“While there has been some progress in reducing the road toll nationally in recent years, Waikato’s share of these is still way too high,” said Cr Vercoe.

The committee has a target of halving the annual regional road toll by 2040 from an average of 79 in 2004-2008. It is working on a range of initiatives with various agencies to combat the problem. This includes developing a regional approach to speed management and carrying out targeted education initiatives under the Reduce the Risk banner.

Of particular concern to agencies is the high number of motorcyclists dying on the region’s roads, and there will be a focus on promoting safety messages to people returning to motorbikes after time away or older first-time riders, Cr Vercoe said. Four of the 18 Waikato deaths this year – or 22 per cent – involved motorcyclists.

“However, while agencies need to play their part in cutting the toll, we also need the general public to be part of the solution.

“Choosing the right speed for the conditions, wearing seat belts, avoiding driving under the influence of alcohol and always driving to the conditions are some of the key things motorists can do to keep themselves, their passengers and other road users safe,” said Cr Vercoe.