Driver behaviour in Waitaki District improved in 2013, statistics from the New Zealand Land Transport Agency (NZTA) reveal.
NZTA provisional statistics released to the Oamaru Mail show there were two fatalities in the district last year (three in 2012), 13 serious injury crashes (20 in 2012,) and 167 crashes (207 in 2012).
All of the 2013 figures were down on recent years and particularly 2010 when there were seven fatalities (20 serious injury, 211 crashes) and 2011 when there were six fatalities (18 serious injury, 223 crashes).
Drivers keeping their speeds down was one reason for the decrease, said Sergeant Peter Muldrew of the Police Highway Patrol.
“Speed is a major factor in crashes and it’s a ‘major’ in serious injury accidents.
“I think behaviour has been really good in the last 12 months and over the holiday period the 4km/h tolerance has seen the bulk of the public take a great deal of notice. Speeds are well down. People are more careful.”
Sergeant Muldrew said one road fatality was one too many, however he was encouraged by the statistics.
“Two is a pretty good result and to see other crashes decreasing is a great result. That’s been reflected nationwide with the 12 month road toll; it’s well down and the best since the 1950s when records started.”
The national road toll for 2013 was 254 deaths – the lowest since 1950 which police have attributed to safer cars, better road design and tougher policing.
Waitaki District Council road safety coordinator Elton Crane said the statistics were promising and reflected a growing awareness of road safety.
“A combined effort from road safety partners means that the message is getting through to the public and people realise that we are all responsible for making our roads a safe place to travel,” he said.
Older drivers were still drinking and driving but Sergeant Muldrew said zero alcohol tolerance for under 20s had made a “huge difference.”
“Younger people took note and no doubt it’s saved lives.”
Mr Crane said alcohol was a factor in many of the fatal and serious injury crashes which was ” unacceptable.”
“There is still plenty of work to be done to change attitudes toward driving drunk, though groups such as SADD have a positive influence in high schools and to the broader community,”
Sergeant Muldrew said the district’s roads overall had been safer in the past 12 months.
“There’s certainly been a change among the motoring public in taking more responsibility rather than leaving it to enforcement agencies. People are more tolerant and allowing more time for journeys.”
“It has been better for us. We’d prefer people drive happily to destinations and that we didn’t not have to go to tell families one of their relatives has been hurt or killed.”
By CHRIS TOBIN