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Encouraging safety...Daniel Naude. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Drivers cannot afford to relax behind the wheel as South Canterbury experiences a horror year on the roads, Timaru District Council’s road safety co-ordinator says.

“Our roads are a network where you need to be on your best alert all the time,” Daniel Naude said.

“When you are tired or make a lapse, pull over.

“There are so many stories of people trying to do the right thing; they deviate from that and that’s when they have an accident.

“It’s nothing to do with bad luck.”

In the year to June there have been 62 serious injury or fatal accidents in South Canterbury.

In 2016-17 the number was 48.

The top 10 factors

Factors contributing to crashes in South Canterbury from 1998 to 2018 were (in order):

1. Poor observation (distraction, not looking properly)

2. Poor handling (includes steering, braking)

3. Poor judgement

4. Failing to give way or stop

5. Too fast

6. Incorrect lane/position

7. Road factors

8. Alcohol

9. Fatigue

10. Vehicle factors

There were 38 accidents recorded in 2015-16 and 40 in 2014-15.

The lowest figure recorded since 1998-99 was 35 accidents in both 2006-7 and 2011-12.

Last year, South Canterbury had its worst year in recent times for fatalities – 17.

Mr Naude said this year had seen a bad spike in accidents.

“We see a few trends in our district which are not uncommon in other areas, such as pulling out of side roads,” Mr Naude said.

“A lot of our crashes involve people from out of town such as the lad killed at Winchester a few weeks ago, and the driver of the recent fatality at Pukaki was also from out of the district.”

Mr Naude said a nationwide 10-year Safe Journey campaign was nearing completion which aimed to cut the fatality rate by implementing a lower alcohol limit, restricting driver ages and other measures.

But instead of reducing the road fatalities during the period of the campaign, accident figures had been creeping upward.

An AA study had found 71% of serious injury crashes had been caused by system failure (such as people not looking) and only 20% by reckless driving.

Findings such as this and other research have led to a rethink among road safety experts in New Zealand.

“The Timaru District Council has given a brief to a few companies to find out what the community thinks. We give out messages such as ‘don’t drink and drive’ but we don’t know what people think.”

“My message now is there’s no guarantee if you drive sober and stay within the speed limit that you are safe.

“You can manage your risk better if you are concentrating on your driving and you have taken evasive action to avoid an accident.

“We all think when there’s a serious accident it’s an idiot doing something stupid but that’s not the case. We have to stop that thinking.

“There’s a false sense of safety among the majority of people that if they keep the rules they will be OK.

“We’ve got to accept the roads are not a place where you can relax.”

On August 31, the Government announced an investment of $4.3billion over three years to reduce deaths and injuries on New Zealand roads.

A total of $3.1billion is to be spent on local roads and state highway improvements targeting high-risk areas and intersections.

A further $2.1billion will be spent on road policing and promoting road safety.