A FOUR-car pile-up near Awakeri on Friday was the second of four crashes to happen over the weekend as drivers continue to ignore police warnings.
Just four days earlier Eastern Bay road policing manager senior sergeant Ray Wylie had issued a public plea reminding drivers to take care on the road as the death toll in the Eastern Bay climbed to its worst in 14 years for this time of year.
The crash also occurred just before national Road Safety Week, which began yesterday with the aim of changing dangerous driving behaviour.
The Awakeri crash occurred at 12.40pm on the sweeping bend near the intersection of Macdonald and Western Drain roads.
Mr Wylie said initial enquires indicated a driver had attempted to overtake another on the corner and slid into the path of another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.
The force of these two vehicles colliding sent the overtaking vehicle into the cable barrier, which split the vehicle in two.
The back of the car was flung into a nearby paddock, while the front spun back into the road causing a secondary crash with another two vehicles.
Mr Wylie said all the drivers involved in the crash were taken to Whakatane Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Witness Tessa Whitaker said she rounded the corner to see the black Audi smash into the cable barrier and fly into the air.
It was all a bit fast for me, but I went and checked on everyone involved,” she said.
“The driver in the Audi had passed out but everyone else was okay, with cuts and scrapes.”
Miss Whitaker said she believed the Audi had passed her on a corner on White Pine Bush Road earlier in the day but couldn’t say for sure.
This crash followed another on State Highway 35 near Opotiki earlier that morning in which a vehicle rear-ended a forklift, ejecting the forklift driver and causing him to suffer a broken ankle.
“The issue of sun-strike was raised, and we’re reminding motorists that they must take due care when travelling on roads where sun-strike is a factor,” said Mr Wylie.
“We are reminding motorists to ensure their sun visors are down, that they are wearing sunglasses where practical and that they slow down. Sun strike is not a defence. Be vigilant and read the environment appropriately.”
There were two further crashes over the weekend, one on SH30 through the Rotomas and one involving a stolen vehicle at the Haig and Russell streets intersection.
“The pattern of an increase in crashes continues and yet again we are experiencing poor driver behaviour and poor choices on our roads,” said Mr Wylie.
“These crashes have an ongoing impact on those involved, including emergency services, families and the resources required for our police inquiries. Inquiries into crashes can continue for some months following the incident.”
The four crashes come on top of several fatal accidents last month.
To date, 143 people, including eight in the Eastern Bay, have lost their lives on New Zealand’s roads. This is eight more than this time last year and the highest year-to-date figure since 2009.
Police national manager of road policing superintendent Steve Greally said Road Safety Week couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Any death on our roads is too many, so we’re using road safety week to remind drivers about the four simple and proven actions they can take to help keep themselves, and everyone else on the road, safe and alive,” he said.
These four actions include wearing a seatbelt, not driving while impaired, driving distraction free and keeping to the speed limit.
The chance of serious death or injury can be reduced by 60 percent in the front seat and 40 percent in the back seat simply by putting a seatbelt on. Alcohol or drugs are a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes.
“Restraints save lives, it’s that simple,” said Mr Greally.
“If you are in any doubt at all about being legal or safe to drive when you’re tired or after drinking, use your common sense and don’t get behind the wheel.
“Even when speed doesn’t cause the crash, the speed on impact can be the difference between walking away from a crash or being carried away in an ambulance or a hearse.
He said speed increased both the likelihood of a crash and the severity of the outcome, regardless of what the cause might be.
All drivers had a duty of care to their passengers and other road users to ensure they reached their destinations safely.
“There is no excuse, you either take road safety seriously or you put your own life, as well as everyone else’s on the road, at risk,” said Mr Greally.
“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. We’ve seen too many deaths on our roads this year, we need everyone to step up and do their part.”
This year’s Road Safety Week campaign, Save Lives #Speak Up, calls for conversations around safe vehicles, speeds and drivers as well as safe routes to school, safe road design and safe and healthy mobility.
To find out how to take part in Road Safety Week visit www.brake.org.nz.