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Ralph
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Only in New Zealand...

Post by Ralph » Thu Jul 28, 2005 5:38 pm

New Zealand Herald:

'Horrendous' Waikato toll double last year's

27.07.05

Drivers taking back roads to avoid congestion on State Highway 1 have contributed to a doubling in road deaths in the Waikato this year, police say.

The national road toll for the year to date is at similar levels to last year, down from 253 at July 26 last year to 250.

But it's been a horror year in Waikato, with 67 people losing their lives this year, compared with 32 at the same time last year.

Waikato now has the highest road toll of any region. The next highest are Auckland (44) and Canterbury (29).

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said traffic in his patch was among the busiest in the country, with more than 11,000 trucks passing through the region every day.

However, State Highway 1 had been relatively accident-free as cars were avoiding major road works along the old black spot between Mercer and Te Kauwhata.

Many crashes were instead happening on State Highway 2 between Pokeno and Mangatarata and then State Highway 27 to Tirau via Matamata.

"I'm quite happy about the road works on State Highway 1 because it slows the traffic up a bit there, but the spin-off has been increased traffic on State Highway 27," Mr Tooman said.

"That has been a bit of a rat run for people trying to avoid congestion but the death toll there has been horrendous.

"Most of them are from out of town; something like 65 per cent of those who have died on that road are from Auckland."

State Highway 3 between Hamilton and Te Kuiti - an alternative for north-south drivers wanting to avoid State Highway 1 via Taupo - was also overrepresented in fatality statistics, Mr Tooman said.

A number of multi-fatality crashes had contributed to the Waikato road toll, the worst being a nine-person fatal bus crash near Morrinsville on May 18.

Many of the fatals came after drivers crossed the centre line, though not many had been trying to overtake when doing so, Mr Tooman said. Driver fatigue was another factor. One of the few bright stories in the region has been at the notorious black spot on State Highway 2 between Maramarua and Mangatawhiri.

"We had a terrible crash record there until March but we did some remedial work along that road after a big campaign and it's been very good since then," he said.

The other region to record a significant increase was Gisborne-Hawkes Bay, up from 13 to 23, a figure impacted by a six-person fatal crash at Ruatoria on May 28.

Regions to record significant decreases in road fatalities were Northland, Bay of Plenty, Nelson-Marlborough and Auckland.

- NZPA
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