Multiple deaths increase road crash toll

Hawke's Bay and Gisborne roads were more deadly last year than at any time in the past five years, with their annual toll almost doubling in 2012.

Crashes resulting in multiple deaths were largely to blame for the toll rising dramatically from 17 in 2011 to 31 last year.

There were three crashes that claimed the lives of four people each, another in Gisborne killed three people, and two more died in a collision north of Te Karaka.

Provisional figures released by the Ministry of Transport showed a small dip in Wellington's annual road toll, which fell from 13 in 2011 to 11 last year.

The Manawatu/Whanganui toll went up one to 29, while Taranaki experienced a more significant jump from 9 up to 17.

Last year's national road toll was the second-lowest in the past 60 years, but showed a worrying increase in motorcycle deaths, as well as crashes with multiple deaths, authorities said.

In total, 306 people died on the roads in 2012, compared with 284 in 2011, 375 in 2010, and 385 in 2009.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said that, although the national toll was low, he was saddened that it was an increase on 2011, which was the lowest since records began in 1952.

"While the full reasons behind the 2012 toll won't be known for some time, we do know that both the number of crashes with multiple fatalities and the number of motorcyclist fatalities increased."

The number of crashes in 2012 with three or more fatalities was eight (resulting in 30 deaths) compared with one (resulting in three deaths) in 2011.

The number of motorcyclist fatalities increased from 33 in 2011 to 45 in 2012. That equated to 15 per cent of all road deaths in 2012.

Superintendent Carey Griffiths, the national manager of road policing, said the road toll was a far cry from the 843 deaths of 1973 and 795 of 1987. Of particular note was the reduction in deaths among the 15-24 age group last year, which at 65 was significantly lower than 82 in 2011, he said. Police and their road safety partners had put a significant focus on young drivers, with an increased driving age and a zero alcohol limit.

So far there have been five deaths during the official holiday period, including yesterday's death of a pedestrian near Levin.

The period ends at 6am on Thursday.

The Dominion Post