Tackling toll by targeting speed
Police may consider adopting a speed tolerance of 4kmh above the limit at all times if a summer campaign proves successful.
"It might well be something that's brought in permanently," Police Minister Anne Tolley said. "We know speed is a significant factor in whether you get up and walk away from an accident or not."
From December 1 to January 31, police will allow a tolerance of only 4kmh above the official speed limit. The move will mark the first time the reduced speed tolerance is applied beyond an official holiday period.
During the two-month period last year, 57 people died on the roads.
Mrs Tolley said the reduced tolerance policy had already proved effective, for example during Easter last year, when there were no road deaths.
Drivers were "getting the hang" of a lower speeding tolerance, with many setting their cars' cruise controls accordingly, she said. Results from the campaign would be evaluated before any decision was made on introducing it permanently.
Waikato acting road policing manager, Inspector Marcus Lynam, is right behind the new initiative and would have a "zero tolerance" for anyone flouting the law.
"As we saw in the Waikato with the two most recent long weekends being fatality free, stricter enforcement around speed along with a range of other safety tactics, can make a real difference in saving lives, preventing injuries, and leaving fewer grieving families behind," he said.
While most Kiwis looked forward to getting away on their summer holidays, he said far too many never made it home, and still more faced a lifetime of debilitating injury from avoidable crashes. "Summer is a risky season on our roads, particularly in the Waikato where we recorded the country's highest road toll over the previous two years despite a declining national trend.
"And it's even more dangerous when you drive too fast, drink too much or take other unnecessary risks, particularly with thousands of extra vehicles using Waikato roads over the summer holidays."
The Waikato's road toll currently stands at 18 deaths compared to 40 at same time last year.
As well as the lower speed tolerance from December 1, the Waikato was next on the list to get a red patrol vehicle which would arrive just prior to Christmas.
The implementation follows a successful launch of the red patrol car at last year's National Fieldays and its subsequent trial on Waikato roads which attracted very positive feedback from the public and media, he said.
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said road safety had come a long way since 1972 when 713 people were killed on the roads.
"There wasn't a cohesive approach to road safety enforcement, but things have certainly changed."
Last year the road toll was 288. "But it's not about numbers and figures, it's about the pain, anguish and suffering which goes on," Mr Marshall said. "I make no excuse for the threshold, we want people to get back home safely and enjoy summer."
A permanently lowered tolerance was a possibility.
AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen said police needed to focus on high-risk areas, rather than on motorways or around passing lanes.
The AA would await the results of the two-month campaign before deciding whether to back a permanently lower threshold. ACC chief executive Scott Pickering said the cost of injuries and deaths associated with road crashes was $340 million a year.
Speeding motorists can expect a bright red or orange police car to appear in their rear-view mirror.
WHAT KIWIS SAY ABOUT SPEEDING
93% would like police efforts to enforce road safety laws either increased (41%) or maintained at the current level (52%)
77% agree speed enforcement helps to reduce fatalities on the roads.
[Ministry of Transport Public Attitudes to Road Safety Survey 2012]