Surgeons urge drivers to take care on New Zealand roads this summer

Despite a commitment from political parties to reduce the rate of deaths and serious injuries on the country’s roads, fatalities were the highest in 2022 since 2018, at 374. This year, December road deaths, at 20, are already above what they were in 2022 and the peak holiday period has not yet begun. The road fatality rate in Aotearoa New Zealand is significantly higher than in Australia, with 7.9 deaths per 100,000 people, according to 2017 figures.

Chair of the College’s AoNZ Trauma Committee Chris Wakeman says there are a number of potential dangers during the holiday season that can contribute to road crashes and deaths.

“In particular, speeding, driving distracted, driving fatigued, or driving drug or alcohol affected contribute to the frequent seasonal spike of preventable injury from road crashes. Aotearoa New Zealand’s roads are known for their challenging conditions, with winding roads and distracting landscapes. Tourists, visiting over the summer, may be unfamiliar with the road code, further increasing the risk of accidents.”

Dr Wakeman says the College supports road safety measures and the Road to Zero campaign, which aims to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 40 per cent by 2030.

He urges drivers to remember the three essential rules for staying safe on the road this summer: avoid driving while tired, adhere to speed limits and drive according to the conditions, and avoid distractions such as mobile phones or substances that impair judgment and concentration.

“Every road death has a profound impact on families and communities, and serious injuries can have lifelong consequences. Surgeons are calling on drivers to prioritise safety and take responsibility for reducing road accidents and fatalities.”

In addition to road safety, Dr Wakeman also expressed concerns about the potential increase in injuries and deaths from water sports during the summer season. He urges caution on beaches, lakes, and pools to prevent accidents and tragedies.

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