Mackenzie worst for crashes

Mackenzie is the worst place in New Zealand for motor vehicle crashes, but statistics show the figures are distorted by the district's population.

The Ministry of Transport vehicle crashes in New Zealand 2011 report shows data taken from police who attended fatal and injury crashes and measures incidents per 10,000 population.

Mackenzie blitzed the stats with 106 casualties and 74 crashes per 10,000.

However, the region has a population of 4100 and police say tourists make up the majority of those involved in accidents. One person was killed and 42 injured on the district's roads in 2011.

In comparison, Timaru, with a population of 44,700, experienced 113 crash injuries and two fatalities, while one person was killed and 32 injured in Waimate, which has 7600 residents.

The figures showed Timaru had 26 casualties and 20 crashes per 10,000. Waimate recorded 32 crashes and 43 casualties per 10,000.

In perspective, Dunedin was New Zealand's worst city for crashes and casualties with 29 crashes and 38 casualties per 10,000.

Senior Constable Les Andrew, of Twizel, said tourist numbers would obviously affect the data.

''The majority of our crashes are tourists so that would distance it quite a bit; we do have black spots like the Lindis Pass. In winter the area between Simons Pass and Hayman Rd, otherwise known as crash alley, can vary. If we get a busy tourist season the crash rate goes up.''

He said most crashes were caused by people not paying attention to the road, looking at scenery, or falling asleep at the wheel.

Senior Constable Russell Halkett, of Fairlie, said the statistics did not give a clear picture.

''I don't think it's any worse than anywhere else; you have to put it into perspective according to the population. I haven't been to a fender bender for a long time.''

The report also revealed a $3.14 billion social cost of road crashes in New Zealand last year.

The average social cost of a fatal road crash in June 2012 was $4.45 million, while the average cost of a serious crash was $467,300.

In the 12 months to December 18, 2012, 304 people had died in road crashes - 21 more than the 2011 road toll.

The Timaru Herald