There have been 20 fatal road accidents across New Zealand in the month of December. Photo / NZME
Whanganui Police Area Commander Neil Forlong says there have been “far too many” fatal road accidents this year and is urging people to drive safely over the holiday period.
Across the Manawatū-Whanganui region there have been 32 road deaths so far this year. There were 34 in 2022.
Statistics provided by Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport show so far in 2023 one of those has been in Whanganui where there were none in 2022.
Forlong said the number of fatal road accidents this year across the central district was “far too many”.
He said people needed to drive to the conditions, stay off cellphones, not drink and drive, and ensure sure everyone in the car was wearing a seatbelt.
“In almost all fatal crashes it’s either that someone’s not worn a seatbelt, the driver is impaired, or they’re distracted on their cellphones.”
Nationally, there have been 319 deaths from road accidents this year (as at December 21).
Twenty of those have been recorded this month (to December 21), which is an increase from 17 deaths on this same date in 2022.
The New Zealand branch of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) says the numbers are concerning.
“We are pleading with drivers to exercise caution on the roads during the upcoming summer period, following a concerning increase in road deaths.”
RACS trauma committee chair Chris Wakeman said New Zealand’s roads were known for their challenging conditions, with winding roads and distracting landscapes.
“Tourists, visiting over the summer, may be unfamiliar with the road code, further increasing the risk of accidents.”
He said surgeons were calling on drivers to prioritise safety and take responsibility for reducing road accidents and fatalities.
“Every road death has a profound impact on families and communities, and serious injuries can have lifelong consequences.”
Reading a text on a phone when driving could lead to a vehicle veering across the centre line, Forlong said.
“You’re only a second away from a truck coming at you.”
Drivers needed to be patient and watch their speed at all times, he said.
The road fatality rate in New Zealand is significantly higher than in Australia, with 7.9 deaths per 100,000 people, according to 2017 figures provided by RACS.
Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.