Police hope for zero weekend road toll

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 30/05/2014

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Central District police are hoping this Queen's Birthday Weekend won't add any more fatalities to the road toll, as numbers continue to climb.

In Central District, the road toll is already just one fatality short of last year's record of 22, despite being less than halfway through the year.

The most recent road fatality for the district was 36-year-old Deanne Cooper, who died after she was hit by a car while jogging in Ohangai Rd in Hawera on Monday.

Nationally, crashes have claimed the lives of 125 people so far this year, 24 more than at the same time last year.

Acting Central District road policing manager Senior Sergeant Kris Burbery said police were hoping this year's long weekend would mirror last year's, with no road deaths.

Police checkpoints and increased patrols would be in places where they knew traffic flow would increase, and where there had been crashes or driving complaints in the past.

As with all public holidays, a reduced 4kmh speeding tolerance would be enforced from 4pm today until 6am on June 3.

Anyone exceeding that threshold should expect to be ticketed, he said.

Burbery said traffic flows usually started to increase from about early-to mid-afternoon today, until 9pm. On Monday, traffic returning after the long weekend started to pick up slightly earlier, about 11am, and continued on until about 8pm.

Common areas of congestion included the smaller townships, like Otaki, Bulls and Taihape.

Assistant Commissioner of road policing Dave Cliff said basic, potentially life-saving choices drivers could make were not to drink and drive, drive at a safe speed and buckle up.

About one in three of the people killed in cars in the first four months of the year were not wearing seatbelts, according to AA data.

Every driver stopped could also expect to be breath-tested, and police would have little tolerance for anyone not wearing a safety belt, driving dangerously or in a way that put other road users at risk.

Those towing or driving more slowly are also encouraged to pull over where safe to allow others to pass so traffic does not build up behind and cause additional frustration.

"Drivers need to be mindful that holiday weekend driving is often more risky than at other times, and adjust their driving accordingly," Cliff said.

Typical hazards included larger traffic volumes, people driving further on unfamiliar roads, and the potential for distraction with children and others in the car, while the winter weather could also make conditions more hazardous, he said.

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Police have used Queen's Birthday Weekend to launch a new "Make it to Monday" road safety campaign, releasing a video on social media featuring primary school children, and using the hashtag MakeItToMonday.

In the video, children come up with quirky road safety wisdom beyond their years as they appeal to parents, caregivers and other motorists to drive safely and help protect friends and loved ones on the road.

The video was launched in conjunction with a display of 254 donated pairs of shoes in Wellington, each pair representing a life lost on the roads in 2013.

At the current rate, there would be at least another 180 empty pairs of shoes by the end of the year, he said.

"While safer roads and safer vehicles all help to make a difference, following basic road safety advice will help us all Make it to Monday," Cliff said.

ACC chief executive Scott Pickering said that last Queen's Birthday Weekend, ACC received more than 200 claims resulting from vehicle crashes.

- Manawatu Standard

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