Driver plea after 7th holiday road death

New Zealand's top road policing officer has hit out at irresponsible drivers after another holiday death on New Zealand roads.

A motorcyclist injured yesterday in a crash on the Taihape-Napier road later died, taking the Christmas-New Year holiday period road toll to seven.

The death comes as several others battle for survival after a horrific morning crash on State Highway 5.

Three family members - a 6-month-old boy, a 12-year-old girl and a man in his 30s - are in critical condition in Hawkes Bay Hospital after their van plunged down a bank yesterday morning.

The van, which had eight occupants and was travelling south on the Napier-Taupo road, is believed to have plunged at least 10m down a bank after the driver fell asleep.

Five other family members are also being treated in Hawkes Bay Hospital.

The crash could have gone unnoticed had a man and baby not been thrown out as the vehicle rolled and dropped over the cliff.

They were noticed by a passing motorist, who alerted emergency services at 6.48am yesterday, initiating a rescue in which six others were winched from the wreckage by helicopter, as thousands of motorists waited for State Highway 5 to reopen about noon.

A woman told police she stopped when she saw the man and infant on the grass beside the road.

''She said she took the baby off him and he just collapsed,'' an officer said.

It would have been impossible for anyone to have climbed up from the wreckage, officers said.

Five of the victims were believed to have flown from Melbourne to Auckland on New Year's Day.

Hawkes Bay rescue pilot Jeremy Bruce said power lines almost immediately above the wreck, along with tall trees surrounding it and a wind, made the rescues ''quite a challenging job''.

The holiday road toll period began at 4pm on Christmas Eve and finishes today at 6am.

Last year, six people died over the period - the lowest since Ministry of Transport records began in 1958-59.

Assistant Commissioner Road Policing Dave Cliff said all seven deaths this holiday period were avoidable.

''They all happened because of the same old mistakes being made.

''The basic messages about slowing down, not driving when you're tired, no alcohol, making sure all the vehicle occupants are safely restrained - all these things apply,'' he said.

The number of people killed on the nation's roads in 2013 was the lowest since 1950 at 254 fatalities. While December's road toll of 23 was the lowest since 1965, the number of deaths still occurring on the roads showed drivers still had much to learn, he said.

''What these deaths keep highlighting is that the results and the gains we are making are quite fickle. There is still lots of risks out there and people need to be incredibly vigilant and careful.''

The highest Christmas holiday road toll was in 1972-73, when there were 37 deaths.

ODT/directory - Local Businesses

CompanyLocationBusiness Type
Arthur BarnettDunedinDepartment Stores
Cafe LagoWanakaCafés
Classic Interiors Flooring XtraGoreHome Furnishings
Peter Scobie MotorsDunedinCar Sales