Otago’s higher road toll frustrates police

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Police are ‘‘incredibly frustrated’’ at road death increases in Otago last year.
The death toll of 18 people in Otago in 2019 was almost double the previous year’s 10 in the region.
Otago Lakes road policing manager Senior Sergeant Glenn Wilkinson said most of the deaths on the roads were ‘‘completely preventable’’.
The police had a focus on four main factors behind crashes — restraints, impairment, distractions and speed.
It was ‘‘disappointing’’ that these factors appeared to have contributed to most of the fatal crashes in 2019, he said.
A large New Year’s Day operation involved Otago Lakes road policing staff breath­testing more than 1700 drivers in the Wanaka area.
Of those, four drivers would appear in court charged with drink-driving after they returned breath-alcohol test results of over 400mcg.
Six other drivers were issued drink-driving infringement notices for being between 250 and 400mcg.
Many drivers initially tested positive for alcohol, although they were under the legal limits, Snr Sgt Wilkinson said.
‘‘This is a reminder that alcohol consumed the previous night takes a number of hours to get out of your system, and many drivers were still under the influence from their New Year’s Eve celebrations, despite having been home for a sleep.’’
January was one of the highest risk months on the roads as many were on holiday, and the police wanted road users to drive safely ‘‘and not end up in hospital, or worse, the mortuary’’.
‘‘Police will continue our high presence and high activity on the roads — expect to be breath­tested — and we will be looking out for people who are undertaking risky behaviour and putting themselves or others at risk.’’