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Speed a killer in Canterbury

The Government believes the road toll in New Zealand is unacceptably high and speed is the major killer, the Associate Minister of Transport, Judith Tizard, said today.

Ms Tizard was speaking at the Canterbury Regional Road Safety Forum in Christchurch at 10.45 am.

"Around 500 people are killed on New Zealand roads each year. This means, on average, one person is killed every 17 hours an one person is admitted to hospital as the result of a road crash every 84 minutes" she said.

"Out of the OECD countries, New Zealand ranks 15th in terms of deaths per 1000,000 people – falling well behind countries like Sweden, Italy and Australia.

Ms Tizard said that speed was a particular problem in Canterbury and between 1993 and 1998 drivers had increased their speeds by 2km/h a year. By 1998 mean speeds on Canterbury's rural roads were 105km/h.

"In the last five years 37% of road fatalities in Canterbury were due to speed. In Canterbury speed is a much bigger problem than alcohol.

"The Government is very aware that we can't afford to be complacent about the carnage on our roads,"she said.

Ms Tizard said she hoped that the $152 million plus road safety package announced last week by Transport Minister Mark Gosche and Police Minister George Hawkins would help address the problems in Canterbury.

"We are investing in a comprehensive road safety package that will see greater emphasis on road safety education and a dedicated patrol on our state highways.

The package includes stricter speed enforcement by police, more compulsory breath testing for drunk drivers and a continuation of our campaign to encourage use of safety belts and child restraints.

"We see this as an investment. We are investing in saving lives; we are investing in changing attitudes to road safety. And in doing so we are investing in our country's future." said Ms Tizard.

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