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Published: 2002-06-10 00:00:00

The Waikato is doing substantially better than the rest of New Zealand in bringing crash statistics down, this week’s Environment Waikato Regional Road Safety Subcommittee heard.

Police Inspector Leo Tooman said the Waikato had almost halved the deaths on the road since 1974, with last year having the lowest number in many years. This had been achieved through engineering, education, enforcement and encouragement.

He said enforcement achieved a short sharp result, while education and visibility sustained the lower figures. Road patrols last Saturday night following the rugby test picked up nine drivers on Ruakura Rd in 30 minutes, and a booze bus in the central city lowered drinking driver numbers. The city once had eight patrol cars and now has 25 on the road.

“Enforcement is a quick fix but doesn’t last. As other areas catch up to us the enforcement aspect will wear off a bit and it’s education that continues the improvement. But we have done well and we can be proud of it.”

Head on crashes had dropped from more than 25 a year to 16 last year as speeds dropped. Truck crashes dropped from 16 to seven last year, as drivers learned they could not speed in the Waikato.

Chairman David Peart said the booze bus was a great educational tool as the fear of getting caught was changing people’s attitudes.

While fewer people are being injured or killed in road crashes in the Waikato over the past year the number of crashes caused by poor observation is increasing.

Land Transport Safety Authority representative Glen Bunting said the numbers were dropping over almost all age groups, significantly in the 20 to 24 group. However the number of middle aged drivers over 50 involved in crashes remained static. The numbers of 15 to 19 year olds involved in crashes was still the highest group.

Poor observation and inattention now contribute even more significantly to crashes, including not seeing other drivers in time, and distractions from cell phones or passengers. The number of crashes attributed to road factors or travelling too fast for the conditions was also still increasing while the influence of alcohol was dropping.

Crashes peaked at 3pm and again in the morning rush hour, but they were most likely to happen on Fridays or at a weekend.