11 lives sacrificed on the altar of our roads



Police don’t know why this Queen’s Birthday road toll is the highest in 27 years, but suspect it’ll be the usual culprits: alcohol, speed and inattention.

Over the long weekend, 11 people died on New Zealand roads, including:

  • three in a 4WD in Dargaville
  • a motorcyclist in Huntly
  • two in a head-on crash in Wairarapa
  • single-fatality crashes in Otago, the Bay of Plenty, north Canterbury, south Auckland and the King Country.

Supt Steve Greally, national manager of road policing, says it’ll be some time before police know exactly what caused each accident.

He told Paul Henry it’s frustrating when messages about road safety aren’t heeded, but that “we’re all human and we all make mistakes”.

“It’s a broken record, and it’s stuck — we just really need people to take responsibility for what they’re doing,” says Supt Greally.

Despite this year’s high, road deaths are trending downward. The past five years have been the safest on New Zealand roads since the 1940s, and per capita death rates are a quarter what they were in the late 1980s.

Caroline Perry, director of road safety charity Brake NZ, believes it’s only a matter of time before we do reach a road toll of zero.

“It is a combination of having the roads having the right safe speed limits in place, vehicle technology which is improving, the right infrastructure for people on foot and bikes, as well as education,” she told Paul Henry.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what works, and there’s no single answer there. It is a combination of those messages, and it’s frustrating when the messages don’t get through.”

Supt Greally says the hardest part for police is having to be the bearer of bad news.

“There’s nothing in our role that actually prepares you to do that. It’s such a human thing to see the terror and the horror of the whole thing in someone’s eyes.

“You don’t even know these people, you are ruining their world quite literally, and it’s so unnecessary. It’s so preventable.”

What is even more remarkable is that the weather was absolutely perfect.

The real problem is that during these long weekends and other holiday travel days masses of people take to the roads that aren’t used to driving for extended periods of time, nor are their driving skills tuned to open road driving.   Personally I avoid going out on the same days that everyone else travels.   To survive, leave a day later, and come home a day later, or earlier, as suits.

I just hope the police aren’t going to look at these results and use them as the basis to introduce more draconian measures such as no-tolerance speeding and even lower blood alcohol levels when those have already been proved to be ineffective.

What was perhaps missing for Queens Birthday was the big media push to drive carefully.  Just a reminder and the ‘promise’ of more police on the road may have saved some lives.  It doesn’t all have to be stick – there can be some carrot too.  Sponsored driver reviver stops, visibility of patrol cars on the major arteries and perhaps a week long media campaign driving home the idea that the 10 minutes saved isn’t worth a life time of misery.


– Newshub

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