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Published: 2010-02-08 00:00:00

The multi-agency Regional Transport Committee says it is encouraging that the Waikato region’s road toll dropped by seven to 67 last year, as driver education, improved roads and firmer policing all helped rein in the number of fatal crashes.

The Waikato – defined by Environment Waikato’s council boundary – had the highest regional road toll in 2007 (89) and 2008 (74) but provisional figures showed the 67 last year meant the region fell to second highest behind Auckland, which had 75.

The lower toll in the Waikato was despite the national road toll rising nearly five per cent to 384. It also meant the Waikato share of the toll fell below 20 per cent for the second time in five years.

"Sixty-seven fatalities in the Waikato is still way too high," said committee chairman Norm Barker of Environment Waikato. "But it’s good to see that driver education, improved roads and tougher policing have all had an impact last year and brought the toll down further to 67 from an appalling five-year high of 93 in 2005.

"Our focus now must be to reduce the toll even more and members of the committee – who include representatives from councils, government agencies and emergency services – are all determined to keep working together well to cut the carnage on our roads, in line with the regional Road Safety Strategy Statement."

However, a report to today’s committee meeting noted Taupo district continued to contribute disproportionately to the regional toll with 18 fatalities last year, the highest of any district in the Waikato, and higher than 2008’s 16 fatalities.

The report said alcohol, speed, loss of control on bends and problems at intersections were the primary causes of Taupo crashes, with most fatal and serious crashes happening on the state highway network. However, it was hard to establish any particular "black spots" for open road crashes.

The committee heard that a number of initiatives were underway to address the toll in Taupo and the adjoining South Waikato district. This includes a project involving general driver education campaigns, specific sober and safe driving promotions, road improvements and Operation Trench targeting drivers going over 100 kilometres an hour. Also, further strategic planning will be an immediate focus of the region’s Road Safety Steering Group.