The deaths of seven people from two families in crashes near Tokoroa this week will have impacted on the thoughts and conversations of many New Zealanders.
Police in Bay of Plenty are urging everyone to continue to reflect on those tragedies and the devastation caused to those families in the hope that it will prevent more lives being lost over Christmas and New Year.
"Driving is such a fundamental feature of so many of us that complacency and impatience easily set in and poor decisions are so easily made," said Senior Sergeant Fane Troy, the officer in charge of road policing for the Taupo area.
"We don't yet know what caused these crashes but it shouldn't take tragedies like this to prove that none of us are invincible. Before you get into a vehicle please think about those families, the suffering they face this Christmas and ask yourself how your family and friends would feel if it were you. Then make the right choices to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe."
Speed, alcohol, fatigue, inattention and a lack of restraints remain the five key factors behind the majority of crashes in New Zealand.
Carrying out basic vehicle safety checks, planning journeys, allowing plenty of time and driving to the conditions and to your abilities can all be lifesavers.
Also make sure you are courteous to others and share the road. There has been a sharp increase in the deaths of motorcyclists this year. In the Bay of Plenty there were none in the first half of the year but five motorcyclists since July have been killed.
"We know that during the warmer weather more motorcyclists take to the roads. They are less visible and that makes them more vulnerable. Whatever your mode of transport make sure you respect the rights of other road users, be visible, be alert and, above all else, drive safely and responsibly," said Senior Sergeant Troy.
If you are a motorbike rider you should ensure that you have the appropriate licence for the size of their bike, and that you are wearing appropriate clothing which is visible and safe, including an approved safety helmet. Bare skin and jandals will not protect you in a crash! If you are riding a motorcycle that was manufactured on or after 1 January, 1980, the headlight must be switched on at all times when on the road.
The official holiday period begins at 4pm on Friday, 21 December and finishes at 6am on Monday 7 January and during this time there will be increased police visibility and patrols and a stricter tolerance on speed.
If you're taking a trip:
- Have your car serviced or at least do some basic maintenance checks - oil, water, wiper blades and tyres. Most tyre companies will provide pressure checks, top-up and puncture repairs for free.
- Map out your route.
- Check the weather and anticipated road conditions.
- Have a full tank of fuel and on a long trip work out in advance where you intend to re-fuel. Remember not all service stations are open 24hrs.
- Don't just re-fuel your vehicle. Take regular rest breaks. New Zealand has a great cafe coffee culture so make the most of it. Keep bottled water in the vehicle to ensure you stay hydrated.
- Make sure there is plenty to keep children occupied. Bored and restless children are a distraction and can stress a driver.
- Keep an emergency pack to hand with water, snacks, warm clothing and a first aid kit in case or a breakdown. If you have a mobile phone make sure it is fully charged for an emergency but remember it is now against the law to use it while driving.
Police will be out in force over the Anniversary Weekend Holiday period to ensure that:
- Traffic flows run smoothly and delays are kept to a minimum;
- Slower drivers are encouraged to pull over to let faster traffic pass;
"Those who engage in high-risk driver behaviour that puts other road users at risk, including speeding, are apprehended", adds Senior Sergeant Ian Campion, officer in charge of road policing in the Western Bay of Plenty.
"Drivers exceeding any posted speed limit by more than 40km/h will have their drivers licence suspended immediately for a period of 28 days and police will also be enforcing graduated driver licence conditions with those drivers found breaching conditions being forbidden from driving until they can comply with all conditions of their drivers licence."
All drivers can also expect to be breath tested anytime anywhere.