Waikato toll down in 2012
Waikato road policing boss Marcus Lynam reset the Avalon Dr sign displaying the region's annual road toll yesterday, and he'd love to keep it at zero.
However, it's inevitable the sign at Waikato Highway Patrol's Hamilton base will need updating, despite the country's second-lowest toll last year.
"Every time we have a fatal, we change the board, and I want to keep it at zero for as long as possible," he said. "It's really important for drivers over the holidays to plan their trips, take rest breaks, share the driving, and be patient."
The provisional road toll for 2012 stands at 306, the second-lowest number of road fatalities since 1952. The record lowest toll of 284 was recorded in 2011.
Inspector Lynam confirmed yesterday that the Waikato police region toll for last year was 45, down from 52 in 2011, but he hesitated to call it good news.
"It's hard to call it that when you're talking about people losing their lives."
Rural roads and state highways are still major contributors to the Waikato's road toll, he said, as were the hidden dangers of fatigue and distraction.
"It's everybody's responsibility to keep safe, and really it comes down to simple things - like keeping your speed down, driving to the conditions, wearing your seatbelt and not drinking and driving," Mr Lynam said.
"We've had a reduction in fatals in the Waikato, however, we're still one of the highest in the country. Our last fatal was on Christmas Day, unfortunately."
Thames-Coromandel's influx of holidaymakers made it a hot spot at this time of year, he said: "We've had 57 crashes there in the week to December 30, and the average for crashes in the whole eastern Waikato is 19, so it's up."
Nationally, in 2012 there were 265 fatal road crashes, similar to the 259 in 2011, but the number who died each crash rose, national road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said.
Fewer drivers - 135 - died, but passenger deaths increased from 61 to 80.
Motorcyclist deaths also increased from 33 in 2011 to 44 in 2012. Of Waikato's 45 road deaths last year, eight were motorcyclists.