Easter road toll down but safety advocates urge ongoing caution

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2022-04-19 04:28:42

Four people have died on New Zealand’s roads over the Easter holiday period, down on last year’s toll of nine.

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The number of vehicles on New Zealand’s roads has rebounded following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, increasing the chance of accidents.
Photo: 123RF

AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen told Morning Report it was too soon to say there was a downward trend in road deaths occurring, but speculated a greater police presence on the roads over the holiday period may have helped limit deaths.

“I really hope [police] were out in force; anecdotally that seems to be the case and we want to see more of that because we know it makes people … not take those 50/50 calls,” he said.

“If they’re seeing a lot of police on the roads they don’t take those gambles, they don’t take those chances and they just make some safer choices behind the wheel and that makes a difference.”

During the height of the pandemic there were fewer people on the roads generally, Thomsen said, but road policing had also dropped as staff were redeployed to other duties.

“We’re hoping we’re gonna see a much higher police presence coming back on the road as we come out of the pandemic because that makes a real difference in driver behaviour and in the choices people make.”

National road policing centre acting director, Inspector Peter McKennie, told Morning Report that while he didn’t have exact figures, police “did have a focus on making sure we were visible on the road network over the holiday weekend”.

He said the four deaths were a tragedy.

“That’s four lots of loved ones who are mourning their deaths, and coupled with that, there will be many more who are seriously injured, so we just need people to continue to be safe on the roads.”

Motorists needed to remain alert and take care as school holidays were ongoing and Anzac weekend was coming up, McKennie said.

He urged people to drive to the conditions, increase their following distances, reduce their speed and ensure everyone in their vehicle was wearing a seatbelt.

People were “rightfully excited” by the fact the lockdowns were over, McKennie said, and were taking the opportunity to travel, but that meant there were more people on the roads.

“The unexpected can happen and you need to get down to a speed where you can respond to that.”

While road deaths over the long weekend were down on last year’s figures, Thomsen noted that did not tell the full story.

“We’ve had a good Easter, and that’s great, but we’ve had more deaths in total this year than last year which is not where we want to be at all.”

He said reasonable weather conditions over much of the country over the weekend couldn’t necessarily explain the lower road toll over the long weekend.

“Strangely enough, it can be the opposite … when you’re out driving and it’s wet and bad weather conditions, that’s something that you need to adjust to and it creates more risks on the road, but the flip side of that is it does tend to mean less people actually go out on the roads and more people maybe put off their driving trips.”

New Zealand’s driving culture generally needed to improve, Thomsen said, which was why a lot of the current advertising campaigns around road safety were aimed at getting people to change their mindsets and their approach to driving.

“I think we do need to do quite a bit of that because I guess it’s the riskiest thing most of us do every day and we tend to get a bit blasé and casual about … I think all of us, if we’re honest, can actually say we could be a little bit better behind the wheel.”

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Source by [earlynews24.com]