Taranaki could be on track to set an unwanted record for road deaths this year.
Thomas Norton Frost, 59, who was taken to hospital with serious head injuries after a crash on Mawhitiwhiti Rd, near Normanby, on December 12 died on Sunday.
An investigation to establish the cause of the crash is under way. The Serious Crash Unit will head to the scene tomorrow.
If Mr Frost's death was found to be the result of a fatal accident it would take the road toll for 2012 to 17, equalling 2009's total and only two fewer than the 19 killed in 2004, and 1997, with 12 days to go.
Taranaki rural area commander Inspector Frank Grant confirmed police were still making inquiries into Mr Frost's death. "If he had a heart attack or other issues, it is not a fatal," Mr Grant said.
He said the number of deaths on the region's roads was a concern even if the latest was not counted.
"The fact is that we've had so many in a short space of time."
Mr Grant said drivers had to take responsibility.
"We can make improvements in terms of the road conditions, enforcement and education but ultimately if somebody decides not to drive in a safe manner or defensively, then there is that risk.
"That is a lethal weapon that they have in their hands or under their control."
He said with people heading away on holiday, drivers needed to be more cautious on the roads, particularly if they were visitors.
Five of the six people killed on South Taranaki's roads recently were from out of the area.
Mr Grant urged drivers to leave early, take their time, not to speed or drive after drinking alcohol.
"This is just one area that has created a bit of a black mark.
"We will continue to keep enforcing the road rules. We are certainly not giving up."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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