Weekend's road toll 'a disaster'
The national road policing manager has called the weekend's road toll a "disaster", calling for people to push aside their distractions while driving over the coming holiday period.
Superintendent Carey Griffiths said many people had distractions at this time of the year, but it was no excuse to take focus away from the road.
His comments came after seven people were killed on New Zealand roads over the weekend - one of the highest tolls this year.
"We've all got things we're worrying about while we're driving - texting, phone calls, even finances and more people are taking part in after-work drinks.
"The message is simple, if you are driving, focus has to remain on the road."
A policeman at the scene of a crash between a van and a group of motorcyclists in Taranaki over the weekend said it was a "horrendous" sight.
Two bikers taking part in a round-the-mountain toy run for charity were killed and six people injured in the crash north of Normanby on State Highway 3 on Saturday.
Highway patrolman Sergeant Stephen Richardson, the first officer at the scene, said the northbound van collided with a group of motorcyclists travelling south. "It was a horrendous sight" - a "mangled mess of damaged motorcycles" while the front of the van was wrecked.
"It looked like a large bomb site."
The dead bikers are Kelly Richard Reardon, 40, of Waitara, who was leading a group of riders, and Gordon Thomas McKay, 68, of Bell Block. The van driver, a 24-year-old man from Whanganui, is in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital.
Griffiths said he was a motorcyclist himself, and to see a group taken out like that was a tragedy.
"We've been seeing it often, and it's vehicles losing control and crossing the centre line. It could have just as easily been a car with a family coming toward them, rather than a group of motorcyclists.
"In this case, the message we give to motorcyclists is to try not to travel in a groups, because if anything, it makes it far too easy for people to be taken out."
The seven Whanganui people in the van were heading north to a speedway "skids" event near Inglewood.
Normanby Fibreglass Factory owner Paul Schrader was one of the first on the scene.
"It was just catastrophic," he said. "There were guys off their motorbikes all over the place."
He tried to get the van off one of the bikers with a forklift.
Witnesses who passed the van coming the other way said they were concerned about its erratic movements.
Five other people died on the roads at the weekend.
Early on Saturday, a 21-year-old Bay of Plenty farmer died after the motorbike he was on collided with a car. The incident happened on SH1 near Opotiki at 5am.
At 4pm on Saturday, a man died after a three-car crash north of the Prescott Rd/SH1 roundabout in Ruakaka, Northland.
The man was driving one of the vehicles involved in the crash.
A fourth motorcyclist was killed about 10.20pm on Saturday when he failed to take a bend in Taumarunui.
The sixth person to die crashed their car into a shed near Paeroa late on Saturday night.
Another person, and the fifth motorcyclist, was killed about 7pm on Sunday, when their motorcycle crashed on SH1 at Rangiriri, in Waikato. Another person was taken to Middlemore Hospital with minor injuries. No other vehicles were involved.