Bay of Plenty road toll climbs to 16, drivers fined $4.5m for speeding

Bay of Plenty drivers copped millions of dollars in fines last year for speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and using a cellphone while driving.

And as the district claims the unenviable title of worst for road fatalities so far this year, police are urging people to slow down and follow the rules.

“Speed is the single biggest determinant in whether someone walks away or is carried away,” a road policing spokesperson said.

In the last year, $4.5 million worth of speeding fines were issued in the Bay of Plenty police district. Another $341,450 was issued to people not wearing a seatbelt.

More than 1300 people were also caught flouting the ban on using a cellphone while driving and collectively were served infringement notices totalling $100,160.

According to the latest police road policing data, the worst offenders in the district were drivers in Rotorua and the Western Bay of Plenty, which includes Tauranga.

Police have earlier said speed, alcohol consumption and driver distractions such as using mobile phones were common factors in many fatal and serious injury crashes and, as of April 22, the Bay of Plenty’s police district’s provisional road toll had climbed to 16 this year – the worst in the country,

It includes four deaths in the space of a week from March 29 to April 3 and compares to 13 deaths at the same time last year.

The Ministry of Transport website shows the Bay of Plenty police district ranks ahead of Northland and Waitematā which have both had 13 deaths.

Nine drivers, two passengers, four motorbike riders and one cyclist have lost their lives on Bay of Plenty roads so far this year, 44 people have died on Bay of Plenty roads in the past 12 months.

A Bay of Plenty road policing spokesperson said road deaths were preventable but police could not be everywhere or solve the problem alone.

“Police remind everyone to slow down, drive free from the effects of alcohol, drugs and fatigue, wear your seatbelt, and minimise distractions.

“Speed is the single biggest determinant in whether someone walks away or is carried away. A small change in speed makes a big difference to injury severity in a crash for the driver and everyone else involved. Less speed means less harm.

“Alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in about a third of all fatal crashes, so if you are going to drink, organise a sober driver to pick you up, or use public transport, taxi or Uber.

“Police will also continue to target drivers using their mobile phones. Put the phone down. There is no text, post or call that is so important to risk your life for.

“We continue to collaborate with our partners in the road safety sector and beyond, but we also need the community’s help. Road safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Stacey Spall, the chairwoman of the AA Bay of Plenty District Council, said the Automobile Association was “very supportive” of the Government’s strong focus on road safety.

Particularly initiatives to upgrade and improve roads and implement other road safety improvements in the region, she said.

Spall said this was a challenging task particularly given the number of rural roads in the district frequently used by lots of people, including horticultural and forestry workers.

“Some of these improvements cannot come soon enough,” she said.

“We appreciate the message that the faster you go the bigger the mess, but telling people to slow down is not the complete solution.”

Spall said having median barriers on as many of the region’s roads as fast as possible was essential so if people did make a mistake they did not cross the centre line.

Anecdotally there was strong evidence that median barriers and other safety measures under way and those planned would play a big part in reducing the road toll, she said.

“It is really important that we make our roading environment as safe as possible.”

Bike Tauranga chairman Kevin Kerr said there would always be road deaths due to a large number of cars and other traffic using the district’s roads.

“Part of Bike Tauranga’s advocacy is to make cycling safer and reduce cars on the roads, and to make sure we get more people riding bikes in a safe manner.”

Kerr said both went hand in hand in helping to reduce the road toll.

This month the Government announced it would be hiking penalties for drivers using their phones while driving from an $80 fine and 20 demerit points to $150 and 20 demerit points.

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