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Published: 2007-12-03 00:00:00

The Waikato region’s road fatality toll for this year is already more than 80, compared to last year’s 65, and there is concern it could be on its way to matching 2005’s “horrific” total of 93.

The number of fatalities so far in 2007 is higher than in all but one of the last five years, with most of December still to go, said Regional Land Transport Committee chairman, Environment Waikato councillor Norm Barker.

“The committee is deeply concerned at the high number of fatalities this year and we want to remind all users of our highways of the need to be particularly careful over summer as even more traffic hits our roads.

“I’ll be personally investigating what more we can do to prevent fatalities.”

A report to today’s committee meeting showed fatalities in most areas were steady but there were big rises for 2007 in Matamata-Piako and Taupo.

Trucks had been over-represented in crash statistics this year – a fact attributed to increased volumes of trucks passing through the region and the excessive speeds some of them were traveling at.

“Concerns are being voiced by commercial fleet operators about the pressures they face and the risks that some industry operators are prepared to take in pursuit of commercial gain,” the report said.

“Commercial pressures often dictate strict delivery deadlines which in turn can create considerable stress for vehicle operators, impacting on driver behaviour, risk assessment and sometimes speed.”

The report noted more logging trucks were on Waikato roads as a result of more forestry operations, and that there were more dairy and freight movements in and through the region.

Whether trucks were to blame for accidents or not, their size meant that, when they were involved in crashes with smaller vehicles, there were usually “severe” results involving serious injury or death.

Police, roading authorities, truck operators and other road safety partners had established a group coordinated by ACC to look at the problems and come up with solutions.

Police in the central North Island have also recently joined with ACC to further target commercial drivers caught for traffic offences. Besides standard fines, commercial vehicle drivers are reported to their employer and if they are caught multiple times this may lead to disciplinary action and affect their employer’s ACC levies.

And Waikato road safety partners were gearing up for major publicity campaigns over summer, addressing such issues as alcohol, speed, impatience and fatigue, the report said.