Road toll reaches 247, no explanation whySave
By Corazon Miller of the NZ Herald, Jimmy Ellingham of NZME News Service
Thirty-five more people have died on New Zealand's roads compared with this time last year, and the toll has grown further with the death of an Auckland schoolboy today.
A senior male pupil at Pakuranga College was killed this afternoon when his motorbike collided with a Rav 4.
School principal Mike Williams described the loss as devastating.
"The boy that lost his life was a very valued member of the community and very popular in the school. The whole school community is going to be very upset by this."
And yesterday Stephanie McHale, 29, died in a crash on State Highway 5. Her six-week-old son survived, but was taken to hospital.
Mrs McHale's car and a ute towing a trailer collided.
Figures released by the Ministry of Transport today show 247 people have been killed on our roads so far this year.
At the same time last year they'd been 212 deaths and 197 in 2013.
Automobile Association road safety spokesman Dylan Thomsen said the that was "puzzling", although the toll was on a long-term downward trend.
"I think everybody involved in road safety right now is concerned by the fact that the number of people dying on the roads has gone up again," he said.
"Everybody is asking the same questions or trying to discern any reasons why."
He said the 2013 toll of 253 was the lowest since the 1950s and other indicators about road safety were heading in the right direction. For example, there were fewer drink drivers on the roads, cars were safer and open-road speeds were dropping.
He pointed to research suggesting there was sometimes no explanation for road deaths.
"Someone could be doing everything right and just make a mistake, not see something, or they could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone crosses the centre line."
The NZ Transport Agency's road safety director Ernst Zollner said any death on the roads was an "absolute tragedy".
"One of the most tragic aspects of serious road crashes is that nearly all of them are preventable.
"The Transport Agency will continue working with police, the Automobile Association and many others to create a safe system for all New Zealanders. That means making our roads and roadsides safer by removing trees and power poles, encouraging people to buy the safest car they can afford, encouraging safer speeds and it means stamping out dangerous behaviour like drink-driving," Mr Zollner said.
The number of deaths or serious injuries had dropped "dramatically" over the past 30 years and the challenge was to continue that downward trend.
Ministry land transport safety manager Leo Mortimer said there can be volatility in road tolls.
"The Ministry of Transport is commissioning research into 2013, 2014 and 2015 year to date crashes to look for detailed patterns and reasons. We expect the results of the research to be available next year," he said.
"The road death and injury statistics are not just numbers. Every figure represents an individual life lost, family, friends and communities left grieving, or a life changed due to serious injuries."