Drivers urged to 'make it to Monday'
A "Make It To Monday" road safety campaign has been launched today on the eve of Queen's Birthday weekend, boosting chances of a repeat zero road toll.
Last year's 254 road deaths were the lowest toll in 60 years and noone died during Queen's Birthday.
This year's statistics are grim.
So far, 125 people have died on New Zealand's roads, 24 more than this time last year. Alcohol, speed or failing to wear seat belts were factors in most of the fatal crashes.
"If we keep going at the current rate, there will be at least another 180 empty pairs of shoes representing those lives that have been needlessly taken from us by the end of this year," assistant commissioner road policing Dave Cliff said.
Buckle your seat belts and child restraints, drive at a safe speed and to not drink and drive are the campaign's key life-saving messages.
Police will also be out in force around the country during the weekend and will have a lowered tolerance to speeding, with a 4kmh speed threshold from 4pm tomorrow until 6am next Tuesday.
At this morning's launch in Wellington, Police Minister Anne Tolley told the crowd of about 60 that a display of 254 pairs of shoes outside in Odlin's Square was a sobering reminder of each life cut short last year.
"How poignant is that," she asked, holding up a pair of small pink shoes.
The shoes were a similar size to what her own granddaughter would wear and could represent a child killed on the road or a child left without parents, she said.
Tolley later spoke about her personal experience with road toll statistics after a close friend's teenage child was killed some years ago.
Last year, she went out with a police crash unit and witnessed first-hand the aftermath of a road accident that left two people seriously injured, their personal items scattered at the scene leaving a lasting impression.
Police Acting Commissioner Viv Rickard told the crowd that notifying families about fatal crashes was one of the worst jobs faced by police.
He recalled the first time he had to doorknock a family as a young constable to break bad news of a fatal car crash, admitting he had struggled with the enormity of it.
The new campaign was about everyone making it to every Monday "but it doesn't mean on Tuesday, I want to go knocking on someone's door", he said.
Police also released a video on social media today featuring Wellington primary school children, who offered some quirky road safety wisdom beyond their years.
Cliff said steps to survive on our roads were so simple that children could readily recall them but grown-ups often forgot them.
"It seems like child-play."
New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said eight times as many people killed on the roads were injured and about half were the result of simple mistakes.
Promoting safer roads, safer speeds, safer cars and safer road users was the focus of the National Road Safety Committee, of which he was a member, he said.
While last Queen's Birthday had a zero road toll, ACC received more than 200 claims resulting from vehicle crashes during that weekend and about 3000 people were injured in crashes last year.
"Even if you're not driving, you can play your part - whether it's by not letting a mate drive drunk, by wearing your own safety belt, or speaking up in the car when you see speeding or other unsafe behaviour," ACC chief executive Scott Pickering said.
Other road safety organisations threw their support behind the new campaign.
"Long weekends where no-one dies on the roads are possible," AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said.
Road safety charity Brake called for everyone to remember that each of those 254 people killed last year was missed by their loved ones.
"Remember them, and commit to driving slow and sober, and belting up, to help you reach your destination safely,"director Caroline Perry said.
"It's time we remembered that every day is a road safety day and Brake urges everyone to take notice of these messages and remember that each time you get behind the wheel, you are operating a piece of machinery that has the ability to kill or seriously injure you, your passengers and other people on the road."
- The Dominion Post
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