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Published: 2004-02-04 00:00:00

The number of people killed or injured on Waikato roads was disappointing, according to Waikato Police Inspector Leo Tooman.

He told this week’s Regional Road Safety Subcommittee meeting that 52 people had died on the Region’s roads in 2003 when police had aimed for no more than 45. Figures had been on target until November when the number of crashes increased.

From late December through to early February the number of vehicles on the road increased dramatically, with a corresponding increase in fatalities and injuries.

However the most dangerous times on the road had changed. More crashes were happening on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, and fewer on the weekends from Friday to Sunday. Police were deploying resources to areas of risk and that was lowering the toll at peak periods, he said.

The number of people killed on highways was also dropping, from 86 percent to 61 percent of all fatalities, but that meant more people were dying in 50 kph areas. However, three times the fatalities occurred on the open road. The number of crashes on arterial routes was also down while those in city or borough areas were rising.

Intersection crashes were a major concern and speed was a factor in 50 kph crashes.

Police concentration on contributing factors had led to a huge reduction in the number of fatalities in head-on crashes – from 45 percent of all crashes to 8.6 percent. The aim was to keep people on the correct side of the road, he said.

Speed as a factor was up to 11 percent and loss of control accounted for 11 percent of all crashes. Roading faults were not names as a factor in any crashes. Older pedestrians were a growing problem and drug use was a major concern along with alcohol, contributing to more than 16 percent each of all crashes.

He said cannabis use was the major issue but not enough was known about its effects. In July police would be conducting roadside drug testing and if drivers’ pupils were dilated they would be taken for testing.

The number of Maori offenders was up slightly and the number of Asian drivers offending accounted for 10 percent of all fatal crashes, a big increase on the previous year’s three percent. Most Asian offenders were students and many were driving powerful vehicles.