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Police want public buy-in to reduce toll after horror week on roads

The death of a motorcyclist in the Waitaki Valley yesterday afternoon — the fourth fatality on southern roads in less than a week — has prompted police to call for more public buy-in to bring down the road toll.

The latest death brings the road toll in the southern police district to 19 this year, more than double the eight deaths recorded at the corresponding time last year.

A police spokeswoman said emergency services were called to a motorcycle crash on Kurow-Duntroon Rd (State Highway 83) about 12.40pm yesterday.

The person died at the scene and the road was closed until about 3.40pm.

Assistant Commissioner Bruce O’Brien said yesterday New Zealand’s road toll this year was concerning.

Nationally, 197 people have died this year.

"We’ve got to move past seeing the number of deaths on the road as a toll.

"Any death is one too many and we really need to start putting the human factor into those numbers because they are mums, dads, brothers, sisters, etcetera that are losing their lives on our roads," Asst Comm O’Brien said.

Police took their role in helping reduce the road toll extremely seriously, he said.

Last week’s Road to Zero 2021 monitoring report indicated Otago had posted a 25% decrease in deaths and serious injuries since the programme was launched in 2018.

Road to Zero emphasises a systemic approach to road safety which accepts that while accidents will inevitably happen, they do not need to be fatal.

The strategy aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 40% by 2030, and to zero by 2050.

Asst Comm O’Brien said that while the zero goal was "really aspirational", the 2030 goal was achievable.

Developments in vehicle safety over the next decade would likely be transformational for progress towards the longer term goal.

Officers would continue targeting the main contributors to serious crashes — specifically, no safety belts, excess speed, impairment and distraction.

"We make no apology around the enforcement either, because that's just one tool to keep us all safe," Asst Comm O’Brien said.

All elements of the organisation played a role in enforcement and having a visible police presence on roads was a priority, as there good evidence it was effective in deterring people from making risky decisions.

Ultimately, police needed buy in from the community to ensure the behaviour of drivers who did things that put other road users at risk were not seen as socially acceptable.

"I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to be having those conversations with our loved ones and our friends," Asst Comm O’Brien said.

On Tuesday, Grant Rawson (51) and Erin Sheehy (48) died when the ute they were travelling in rolled in Ardgowan Rd, Oamaru.

On Monday, Karson Grennell (16) died in hospital after a crash at the intersection of Nith and Bowmont Sts, in Invercargill.

Last week, Kaia Hamilton (17) died after crashing through a barrier on a bridge and into the Oreti River in Southland.

oscar.francis@odt.co.nz

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