Slow down and live
In last week's edition we reported the Waikato Regional Transport Committee's decision to seek government support to reduce the speed limit on Waikato rural roads from 100km/h to 80-90km/h.
Committee chair Hugh Vercoe asked Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter to act quickly to allow councils to more easily change their speed limits as part of efforts to reduce the number of deaths on Waikato roads.
The Waikato region has the worst statistics in New Zealand for road deaths and serious injuries, making up 20 per cent of national casualties each year — and last week, when the decision was announced, we lived up to our unfortunate title.
And the same week, neighbouring rural district Taranaki had New Zealand's worst road crash in 13 years when seven lives were taken in a two-car crash on SH3 near Waverley.
In our region there were four road fatalities and one man was critically injured.
One of the fatalities was Hamilton man Warren Bell (69) who died after stepping into the path of a car on Tasman Rd in Hamilton.
Like the crash near Waverley, the other serious crashes were all on rural roads.
Hamilton man Boyd Katipa (54) died on SH1 near Cambridge when his ute and a Toll truck collided.
Robert Critoph (48) of Waiterimu died at Waitakaru¯ru¯, on the notorious stretch of SH2, in a T-bone crash. Another person suffered serious injuries and three others moderate injuries.
New Plymouth woman Charlotte Ashton (27) died on SH3 near Otorohanga ¯ in a head-on crash with a truck.
On Rotowaro Rd, near Glen Afton, a truck crash resulted in critical injuries for the 59-year-old driver.
Statistics show our region has 18 per cent more deaths and serious injuries than the national average and 70 per cent of these are on open roads with speed limits of 100km/h.
Waikato Regional Transport Committee says analysis by the Speed Management Guide and NZ Transport Agency shows that more than 80 per cent of Waikato's rural roads have speed limits higher than what is safe.
And judging by the number of fatal crashes on the region's state highway system, NZTA may well be wise to look it it's speed limits also.
Studies show that decreasing average speeds by just a small amount — 1 per cent — results in a fourfold decrease in death and serious injury crashes.
That equates to three people surviving last week's crashes.
Lower travel speeds increase a driver's effective field of view and gives a driver more time to react to a hazard, thereby avoiding or reducing the severity of a crash.
And speed affects the outcome of every crash, regardless of the cause, and excessive or inappropriate speeds make outcomes worse.
It is fair to say rural communities in Waikato and Taranaki are in shock following the series of crashes last week, perhaps we have to transfer that shock into support for the actions of the Waikato Regional Transport Committee — and for us all to remember to drive to the conditions, be patient and look after fellow road users.