Everyone has part to play in reducing road toll

Any death on the roads is one too many, but a significant reduction in the southern road toll last year should be recognised and applauded following our nightmarish 2020 statistics.


Twenty people died on southern roads last year — 15 in Otago and five in Southland.

That was well down on the year before, when 38 people were killed and Otago had its highest road toll in more than a decade.

Police say they ramped up their road safety efforts last year, getting more officers out on the roads.

It makes a difference. Sadly, while the threat of possibly injuring or killing someone does not seem to deter some dodgy drivers, the prospect of a hefty fine might.

Police are more visible, and the trial of the Impairment Prevention Teams seems to be going well.

Checkpoints are more likely to take place anywhere, any time, rather than just in key streets over the weekend.

The prospect of seeing the blue and red flashing lights wherever you go is a strong deterrent.

The impacts of lockdown also cannot be ignored. Months of travel restrictions and fewer vehicles on the road naturally reduce the likelihood of a crash.

But while the statistics are moving in the right direction, we cannot forget that each one of those numbers represents a life taken far too soon.

And the impacts do not end with the deceased.

There are family members and friends left grieving for the rest of their lives. Empty chairs at Christmas, birthdays, weddings.

First responders and medical staff who work with crash victims and their families take on a heavy burden.

It is difficult to imagine the dread that must accompany knocking on someone’s door in the middle of the night to deliver the worst kind of news.

For those who are lucky enough to survive a crash, there can be months or years of physical and mental rehabilitation required, and even then, they can suffer from life-long injuries.

Road safety campaigners describe the impacts of a crash as the ripple effect, and it is an apt term.

There would be few among us who do not know someone who has been involved in a car crash to some degree.

That means we also all have a role to play in reducing harm on the roads as much as possible.

There are the easy ways you can do your bit.

The obvious one is not drinking and driving, although as a day sitting in our courtrooms will show, far too many people are still not getting the message there.

Police caught close to 30 drink drivers around the South a few weeks ago, a shameful statistic.

There are no excuses for getting boozed and then getting behind the wheel.

There are also no excuses for speeding, yet once again, too many of us are still not doing the right thing.

Getting to your destination 30 seconds faster is surely not worth somebody’s life.

It has become a cliche, but it really is true that the faster you go, the bigger the mess.

On the flip side to that, if you are driving a heavy vehicle, or towing a boat or caravan to a holiday hot spot this summer, keep an eye on your rear-vision mirror.

If there is a line of traffic behind you, pull over for a few moments. The chances of someone getting frustrated and attempting to dangerously overtake will be significantly reduced.

Everybody likes to think that a serious crash will not happen to them, but it can, and it does.

If we all do the right thing and drive safely, the chances of getting an unwanted knock on the door in the early hours of the morning will get lower.




Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter