Provisional Easter road toll at eight

Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles.

The government is being urged to spend an extra $930 million on road maintenance in light of the high death toll over the Easter break.

The official Easter road toll has been provisionally updated to eight, all taking place in the North Island. The previous figure was seven, but a fatal crash involving a 14-month-old child at their Auckland home of Mt Wellington on Friday has been added to the list.

An Easter toll of eight would be the country's worst since 2010, when 12 people died on the roads.

The road fatalities come as no surprise to the New Zealand Automobile Association, which says the country has been a dangerous place to drive for at least the last seven years.

To make driving less perilous, the AA says road maintenance should be a government priority.

The association's Dylan Thomsen told Morning Report, although it wasn't the only issue, road maintenance played a major role in road safety and that underfunding had left many roads on the point of dangerous failure.

"We calculate that we need a $930 million increase in road maintenance funding over the next three years to get our roads back to the standard they should be," he says.

"The maintenance has been underfunded for much of the last decade and what we're really seeing is a number of roads around the country starting to reach critical points where they desperately need maintenance now or else they are going to start failing and much more extensive work is going to be needed to repair them."

He says many roads lacked grip and with winter ahead and more wet weather, loss of traction by vehicles would become an even bigger safety risk.

Increasing funding to improve existing road could be achieved with immediate effect and would mitigate the dangers, Thomsen says.

"I think it's the really difficult task to try to change the 'She'll be right' culture that pervades a bit on the roads and trying to change that to an attitude of 'there's no second chances' when you're behind the wheel."

"We don't have good grip on the roads when they start to lose their chip seal, we see flushing and bleeding and things like that, it means that the tyres have less grip on the roads and that's why it matters for safety. Even the road markings and making sure that they're not getting faded and signage, things like this."

There were no deaths at Easter last year, when the country was in lockdown.

Thomsen agreed that statistics over the last year had done much to dispel the notion foreign tourists were responsible for a significant percentage of road deaths, as Covid restrictions had kept them out of the country.

Poor driving and older model vehicles in poor condition could account for many accidents also. Thomsen says there is not one single issue that accounted for road accidents and that an over all change of culture is needed.

"We actually need to have a strategy in place to get New Zealanders into better cars because we drive a lot of older vehicles in comparison to other countries and then I think it's the really difficult task to try to change the 'she's be right' culture that pervades a bit on the roads and trying to change that to an attitude of 'there's no second chances' when you're behind the wheel.

"If you get it wrong or make a mistake, it's too late to go back afterwards and be able to change it."

-RNZ.

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