“Significant” changes need to stop fatal crashes

New Zealand’s road toll for 2021 is close to the same as it was in 2019. File photo/SunLive.

A total of 289 people have died on New Zealand roads so far this year, prompting calls for people to drive responsibly as we head into Christmas.

New Zealand Police road policing director Superintendent Steve Greally says policing NZ roads alone cannot achieve the significant changes needed to prevent death and serious injury on our roads.

A new driving operation is being launched in Wellington to educate drivers about the risks associated with driving when tired, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, and driving without a seatbelt on.

“We’ve lost 289 people on our roads already this year,” says Police Minister Poto Williams.

“That’s 289 families struggling with the tragedy of losing a loved one.”

Steve says Operation SafeStart is about reminding people of safe driving responsibilities.

“It’s all simple stuff but for some the message just isn’t getting through,” says Steve.

“No police officer wants to knock on the front door to tell a family that their loved one isn’t coming home.

“It’s the worst job in the world.”

The summer holidays are always a busy time with more cars on the roads moving around to spend time with friends and family for Christmas and New Year’s.

“We want everyone to enjoy their holidays but to do it safely,” says Steve.

“What we don’t want is for people to make a bad decision after a few drinks and get behind the wheel, endangering them, their passengers and everyone around them.”

Steve says if you are going to drink, don’t drive.

“Organise a sober driver to pick you up, or use public transport, taxi or uber.

“If you plan how you’re getting home before you head out, there will be no risk of you making a bad decision later on.

“It’s also that time of year when businesses and groups host end of year events.”

Police are encouraging organisers to think about how they will get their colleagues and friends home safely afterwards.

“Perhaps assigning designated drivers or paying for taxis or ubers.

“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Operation SafeStart will operate from 5.30pm Friday, November 26, through to 1am Saturday, November 27, in the Wellington region.

Drivers will be breath tested for the presence of alcohol and checked for fatigue, and officers will be checking that everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained.

Police will continue to be out on the roads deterring unsafe driving behaviour.

If you see drivers being unsafe on the road call 111 immediately.

While Operation SafeStart is particularly focussing on the Wellington area, the above advice applies to anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car.

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