Greater crash risk in festive season

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013

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Driving on open roads in the south is much more dangerous during the festive period, a police report shows.

The Christmas and New Year National Crash Risk report shows there is more chance of dying or being seriously hurt in a car crash during the Christmas and New Year holiday period despite fewer crashes. More people are also injured in crashes on roads outside of built-up areas during this time compared to the rest of the year.

Southern district acting highway patrol team leader Geoff Sutherland said that during the Christmas holiday period there were a lot more people leaving town and heading off on holiday breaks.

"It follows suit [that] with increased traffic there would be a greater crash risk on open roads."

The report shows there are fewer crashes during the Christmas holiday period but the crashes are likely to be more serious.

Historically, during the Christmas holiday period the percentage of crashes relating to poor handling, speed and alcohol increase for injury, fatal and serious crashes.

As well, the percentage of crashes with fatigue as a contributing factor almost double during the holiday period to make up 10 per cent of injury crashes and 12 per cent of fatal and serious crashes.

Speed, alcohol and driver distraction at increased speed limits, away from urban areas, contributed to greater risk of a fatality or serious injury, Mr Sutherland said.

Fatal and serious crashes rise from 0.6 to 0.7 per day during this time.

In the Southern police district, 46 per cent of injury crashes occur on the open road year round. This increases to 65 per cent during the festive period.

For fatal and serious crashes, 56 per cent occur on the open road year round, increasing to 83 per cent during the Christmas holiday period.

The report shows Christmas Eve has the highest crash risk of the holiday period, with a peak from noon to 5pm.

The increase in crash risk during this period is likely to be because of an increase in last-minute travel as people drove to where they were going to spend Christmas Day and Christmas Eve social events, Mr Sutherland said.

"Some people work right up until Christmas Eve then rush off." However, since the launch of the Safer Summer campaign at the start of the month, drivers had been showing better behaviour on the roads, Mr Sutherland said.

"We are seeing drivers heed the messages around speeding and alcohol, including a lowered speed tolerance until the end of January," he said.

"Hopefully drivers will continue to respond to the campaign and get themselves and their families to their destinations and home again, alive."

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The official Christmas holiday period starts at 4pm on Tuesday December 24 and ends at 6am on Friday January 3, 2014.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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