Police out in numbers in bid to prevent Easter long weekend crashes, deaths, disaster

More than 320 lives have been lost on New Zealand roads over the Easter long weekend, and more than 8100 people injured in the past four decades – and police are urging drivers not to become part of the tragic toll this year.

The worst Easters on record were 1971, when 21 people died and 1987 with 19 fatalities.

The only two years where no one died were 2012 and 2020 – while the country was in the midst of a strict Level 4 national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This long weekend police will be out in force, targeting drivers who put themselves and others at risk.

Their safety message to Kiwi drivers is simple -slow down, minimise distractions by putting your phone down, and buckle up.

“We want to ensure everyone can enjoy their Easter holiday plans, and return home safely,” said National Road Policing Centre acting director Inspector Pete Jones.

“To make sure that happens, road safety starts before you get behind the wheel – are you well rested, have you eaten and are you hydrated?

“Once you’re in the car, don’t speed, drive to the conditions, wear your seatbelt and be patient.

“There will be a lot of traffic on the road so be courteous and keep a safe following distance.”

Jones said police “may sound like a broken record” but it was crucial to keep pushing the safe driving behaviour messages to change attitudes and save lives.

“Speed is the single biggest determinant in whether someone walks away or is carried away,” he said.

“A small change in speed makes a big difference to injury severity in a crash – for the driver and everyone else involved.”

Jones said police would be out in numbers this weekend aiming to deter drivers from speeding.

Checkpoints be also operating “anytime, anywhere” for alcohol and breath testing.

“Alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in about a third of all fatal crashes,” Jones said.

“If you are going to drink, don’t drive. Organise a sober driver to pick you up, or use public transport, taxi or Uber.”

Police will also be on the hunt for drivers using their phones.

“Put the phone down,” Jones ordered.

“If you are driving, you need to focus on the road to get everybody in the car to your destination safely.

“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Brake road safety charity director Caroline Perry echoed the police message.

“Crashes are devastating for families and communities, and they are preventable tragedies,” she said.

“This Easter we’re reminding drivers to plan their journey and allow plenty of time, and to do some basic vehicle checks before setting off, such as checking the depth of your tyre tread, making sure lights and indicators are working, and checking oil and water levels.

“We’re also urging drivers to remember some key safety messages when on the road: keep below speed limits, ensure everyone is wearing a seat belt, and stay focused on the task of driving.”

The total road toll for 2021 so far is 77 – compared with 83 for the same time last year.

The victims included 42 drivers, 15 passengers, 15 motorcyclists, three pedestrians and two cyclists.

Most victims were 25-19 year old males.

The official Easter holiday period starts at 4pm today and finishes at 6am on Tuesday.

Drive safe – Easter road safety tips

Slow: Drive within speed limits, drive at 30km/h or lower in communities, and slow down on rural roads too. Avoid overtaking unless you’re sure it’s safe.

Sober: If driving, don’t drink any alcohol, or take any illegal drugs or medication that could affect driving.

Sharp: Drive alert – not tired, ill or stressed. Get a good night’s sleep before driving and take breaks every two hours. Have an eye test at least every two years and wear glasses or contact lenses if needed.

Silent: Phone off or on message service. Minimise other distractions such as sat nav/GPS and tuning the radio as much as possible.

Secure: Always belt up and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does the same and adjusts head restraints. If travelling with children, ensure you have correctly fitted, appropriate child restraints. Ensure your vehicle is well-maintained and serviced.

Sustainable: Only drive when you have to.

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