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As of last night, 379 people had died on the roads during 2018 — one more than during the previous year.
It is the worst road toll since 2009 when 384 people lost their lives.
Road authorities are calling it an "absolute tragedy" and urging people to be responsible on the roads during the rest of the holiday period.
Ministry of Transport spokesman Brent Johnston said that on average one person was killed every day on our roads and another was injured about every hour of every day.
"The hundreds of lives lost and the thousands injured on our roads this year are an absolute tragedy.
"It is horrific and we need to do something differently."
Everyone had a responsibility to make good choices on the roads, he said. But people sometimes made mistakes and road authorities needed to step up as a result. "We need to design a road system for people — instead of blaming people for failing to survive in the system that we've designed.
"In the meantime, we're asking all drivers and riders this summer to make good choices on the roads.
"No one thinks a crash will happen to them, but we all make mistakes. So please, follow the rules."
Between 2013 and 2017, 1500 people died on New Zealand roads.
The numbers have increased over the past five years at what authorities have called "an unprecedented level".
A total of 57 of those killed were children and a further 167 were aged 15 to 19. Nearly 40 per cent of people who died in that period were not driving and had either been cycling, walking or were passengers.
Road safety campaigner and editor of car review site Dog and Lemon, Clive Matthew-Wilson, said he was gutted at the 2018 road toll.
"Quite clearly, just targeting illegal speeds has not worked. In fact, about 85 per cent of the road toll occurs below the speed limit."
Police Minister Stuart Nash last night said a "range of options" were being considered to target drugged drivers, including saliva testing.
Roadside drug testing relied on accurate and easy-to-administer technology, he said.
Any proposed new strategy would be released for public consultation.
"We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and police enforcement on our roads is a key part of this."
As dawn breaks today, New Zealand is coming out of the most deadly time to be on the roads, with more people dying and suffering serious injuries between midnight and 6am on New Year's Day than at any other time of the year, Herald analysis of NZ Transport Agency data has found.
Since 2000, 12 people were killed and 33 suffered serious injuries.
This is nearly twice the next worst morning for deaths and serious injuries on our roads, Waitangi Day morning on February 6.
The words of Auckland road policing manager Inspector Scott Webb ring more true than ever — don't get behind the wheel if you have been drinking or taken drugs, wear seatbelts, keep your speed down and don't get distracted.
His comments followed a spate of serious crashes yesterday.
One person died and another was seriously injured after a crash on State Highway 1, north of Waihola in Otago, at 1.30pm.
Further north several people were injured in accidents on SH1 in the Karapiro and SH15 — the Napier-Taupō highway — which closed roads as crews attended the crash scenes.