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'It is devastating': Two more deaths add to road toll

Two people have died from injuries suffered in car crashes last month, adding to the worst annual road toll in a decade.

The official holiday road toll stands at eight - taking the provisional toll for 2018 to 380 deaths - two more than the previous year.

The last additions to the road toll were two people who died from injuries suffered in earlier crashes.

One person died yesterday after a car crash near Martinborough earlier in the month.

The single-vehicle crash on Lake Ferry Road on 12 December left the passenger with critical injuries, and they died in Wellington Hospital yesterday.

Meanwhile, police have confirmed the driver of a car that crashed in Acacia Bay in Taupo on 27 December died on Sunday. The death has been referred to the Coroner.

Automobile Association spokesperson Dylan Thomsen said this year's count was "awful", especially as it followed record low numbers just five years ago.

He said the increase matched global trends, with population increase seen as one factor, although this did not account for all of it.

Long-term research by the AA showed while about half of fatalities were from extreme factors such as alcohol or speed, much of the other half were mistakes by average drivers.

Mr Thomsen said they would like to see roadside drug testing introduced, and more alcohol interlocks to stop drunk drivers starting their cars.

But he said every driver needed to take care, not drive tired, and leave cell phones alone.

The goverment has pledged $1.4 billion over three years to make safety improvements on high-risk roads, including installing median barriers, rumble strips and side barriers.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said there were "far too many families who are missing a loved one these holidays" after road accidents this year.

"It is devastating to know that many of these deaths were preventable," Mr Nash said.

"Although road deaths as a proportion of our population and in comparison to the number of cars on the road has halved in the past 20 years, we can do much better. We can work together to reduce the number of deaths. The main contributing factors are speed, failure to wear a seatbelt, distraction such as using a cellphone, and impairment from drugs, alcohol, or fatigue.

"Police remain out on the roads working hard to keep everyone safe. But they can't do it alone - we all need to be responsible every time we get behind the wheel.

"The summer holidays are not over, and I encourage everyone to remain patient, courteous, and pay attention behind the wheel to ensure you and your loved ones get where you're going safe and well," Mr Nash said.

Consultation will also begin this year for a new road safety strategy and action plan.
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