Otago road deaths 'devastating'

Police are devastated two lives have already been lost on Otago roads in separate vehicle crashes only two weeks into the ''We Want You Here for Christmas'' campaign.

The campaign, launched on December 1, targets some of the main factors that contribute to accidents.

Two people died in vehicle crashes overnight on Tuesday in Otago.

A woman died when the vehicle she was in went off Kempthorne Rd and rolled in a paddock near Heriot in West Otago on Tuesday night.

A man died in a crash in Waianakarua Rd near Herbert early yesterday.

Two other people died elsewhere in New Zealand overnight on Tuesday.

Otago road policing group supervisor Sergeant Graeme Evans, of Dunedin, called the deaths ''devastating''.

''We want you here for Christmas . . . is still very much at the front of our minds particularly in light of the two deaths.''

Sgt Evans could not comment on individual incidents and was ''in no way'' linking any of the key factors identified in the campaign to the recent deaths.

''The investigation likely hasn't been finalised yet.''

When he reviewed crashes he had attended, the biggest contributing factor was the speed of vehicles.

''The message obviously is to have some personal responsibility. Keep an eye on your speed.''

While in some case crashes were unavoidable, speed could determine the seriousness of the outcome.

The campaign also focused on seatbelts, impairment by fatigue, alcohol or drugs and distractions from the use of cellphones and similar gadgets.

''Let's not be knocking on anyone's door in the lead-up to Christmas and telling them that their father, mother, wife ... isn't coming home.''

This year there have been 31 fatalities on Otago and Southland roads.

Last year there were 34 deaths in the southern region, the worst toll since 2001.

Nationally, the country is on the verge of one its most deadly years in the past decade.

The four crashes took this year's road toll to 367, already 40 deaths up on last year.

There are still 10 days to go this year, including the busy Christmas period, which officially begins tomorrow.

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