HAYLEY GASTMEIER

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Wairarapa’s road toll halved last year, bucking the national trend which showed the death toll in crashes at its highest in eight years.

Five people died on our roads in 2017, compared to 10 in 2016.

Ministry of Transport figures show New Zealand’s death toll has steadily climbed over the past four years, with the most recent up 53 from the previous year.

By midnight on December 31, 2017, the annual road toll stood at 380 — four short of 2009’s total.

In 2016, 327 people were killed on New Zealand roads.

While Wairarapa’s latest figure could be considered a feat, a regional road safety advocate says five fatalities in the region is still five too many.

“They were preventable,” Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said.

“All of those were tragedies, and we must think of the ongoing trauma it’s caused the families.”

Last year, Masterton woman Nicola Dawn Dryden was killed after a two-vehicle crash on State Highway 2 near Eketahuna on January 27.

The 46-year-old and her daughter had been travelling north when their vehicle collided with a southbound ute on the highway bridge, next to the Anzac Memorial Bridge.

Eric MacIntosh, 79, of Masterton, was critically injured in a head-on collision near Clareville on May 4.

Mr MacIntosh, who had climbed to the Mt Holdsworth summit 839 times, died in Wellington Hospital two days later.

On September 24, Lower Hutt cyclist John Roger Collett was killed on Western Lake Rd.

Martinborough man Marco Overdijk died on State Highway 53 near Featherston on November 29 after his motorcycle collided with a logging truck.

Less than a fortnight later, on December 11, a 35-year-old man died after his motorcycle collided with a truck near Castlepoint.

Arnold Alfred Thomas Zehner Jr, a German national who was holidaying in New Zealand, was in a critical condition when emergency services arrived.

He died soon after at the scene, about 5km from the lighthouse.

Mr Pauling said it was important that people listened to and acted on police and New Zealand Transport Agency advice.

“Please slow down, please have patience, and please rest.”

He said people who were alert and rested were less easily distracted.

Many deaths happened simply because people were not wearing seatbelts.

“It’s a must. Make sure you and all your passengers are belted up.”

He said a Swedish expert had recently spoken with Auckland Council about implementing a zero target road toll strategy, which Sweden has had for the past 20 years.

Mr Pauling supports the policy, which, if adopted, could see the number of deaths on New Zealand roads radically reduced.

“In 2018, I would like to see the road toll dramatically slashed nationwide — and of course, zero in Wairarapa.”