Christmas is here – don’t blow it
A record low annual road toll could be the icing on the Christmas cake so long as motorists take care and act responsibly over the holiday period, the director of Land Transport Safety, Reg Barrett said today.
“Traditionally the holiday period is a terrible time for carnage on our roads, but there have been signs through the year that people are heeding key road safety messages. If that attitude continues we will see an annual road toll substantially under 500 – the first time the toll has been under 500 in 36 years,” Mr Barrett said.
“That is no cause for complacency, however. The focus must still be on driving to survive over the summer.”
Last year 17 people died in 14 fatal crashes over the official Christmas holiday period. Ninety-eight people were seriously injured and 292 people received minor injuries in crashes.
The most common contributing factors to the crashes once again were speed (20 percent), alcohol (17 percent), inattention (14 percent) and failing to give way (14 percent). Police officers attending crashes estimated that two deaths could have been avoided had people been wearing their safety belts.
“This means the messages are the same. Given the increased traffic on the roads over the holidays it is especially important that motorists drive within the speed limits and according to the conditions.
“Keep a safe following distance between you and the vehicle in front. If you are in a slower vehicle, pull over at regular intervals and give other motorists the opportunity to pass safely,” Mr Barrett said.
“Be patient and you'll reach your destination safely. That is better than not arriving at all," Mr Barrett said.
Drink-driving is a particular concern over the holidays, and Mr Barrett urged people to avoid problems by preparing safe transport well in advance.
"If you're planning on drinking, don’t plan on driving," he said. "Plan alternatives ahead of time – have a sober driver, use public transport or taxis, dial-a-driver, or stay the night.”
Mr Barrett also stressed the importance of wearing safety belts at all times when in a vehicle, and he reminded parents and other drivers of their duty to see that children were safely buckled in to approved restraints.
He also advised drivers to allow extra time for their journeys.
"Plan to take your time, share the driving if you can and take rest breaks to avoid fatigue if you are travelling long distances.
"Christmas should be a time for celebration, not for mourning, but we should keep in mind that there will be around 460 families facing an empty seat at the Christmas dinner table this year as a result of losing a loved one in a fatal car crash. That should be a sobering thought for everyone. Please take care.”
The official holiday period will begin at 4pm on
Friday 22 December and end at 6am Wednesday 3 January