More than three quarters of Northland’s fatal and serious injury crashes occur in rural speed zones.

New Zealand Transport Agency figures show 77 per cent of the area’s crashes occurred in rural speed zones in the six years to the end of 2014, with the remainder in urban speed zones. Rural speed zones are roads where the posted speed limit is 80 kilometres per hour or more. Urban speed zones are roads where the posted speed limit is less than 80 kilometres per hour. Poor handling, alcohol, speed and poor observation were the leading causes of fatal and serious crashes in the region.

Northland District road policing manager Inspector Murray Hodson said regardless of the cause of the crash, a vehicle’s speed at the time of impact was the key factor in survival.

Drivers needed to travel at a safe speed for the road and conditions, and within the speed limit, he said. Mr Hodson also encouraged locals to stop friends and whanau driving drunk and to plan ways of getting home after drinking.

“Always be aware of other road users and be alert to any potential hazards on the road. Distractions are dangerous, so don’t text and drive,” he said.

Mr Hodson said a road policing manager could make recommendations to the coroner for consideration regarding any fatal crashes in the district based evidence gathered at the crash scene. Police, NZTA and local territorial authorities also often reviewed the permanent posted speed limits, especially in areas where there had been a number of crashes, he said.

Recently the speed limit was reduced to 80km/h from Springs Flat, Kamo, to Saleyard Rd (south of the Fonterra Dairy Factory at Kauri) and also SH10 at Waipapa. They were high-risk crash locations. The speed limit on SH1 on the Brynderwyn Hills was also reduced to 80km/h four years ago.

“This was also a high-crash area and since that speed limit was introduced the number of crashes has reduced,” said Mr Hodson.

NZTA was doing a comprehensive review on all speed limits across the country to determine whether current speed limits supported the roads, he said.

Nationwide, nearly two thirds of crashes occurred on local roads with the remainder on state highways. Just over half occurred in rural speed zones.