Police warn drivers to be careful as road toll climbs

Five people have been killed in four separate car crashes across New Zealand, bringing the road toll to 323 - just five shy of last year's entire total. 

Police said the number of people who died on the roads not wearing seatbelts had doubled. 

A small bundle of flowers was gently placed on the roadside on Saturday, marking the spot two people were killed in a car crash less than 24 hours ago.   

"Yesterday when everyone got up they were alive, they had futures ahead of them. Today is a different story. It's just so tragic," said national road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally.

It's been a horror 24 hours on New Zealand roads. Two people died in Kumeu in west Auckland. An hour earlier a woman was killed in a three-car collision in Towai. 

Another person died when a van collided with a truck on State Highway 65 near Maruia and a fifth was killed on a section of State Highway 1 near Waimate. 

They all add to the year's road toll, which now sits more than 50 people above what it was last year. 

"This year in particular is going up a lot higher than it has in the past. We are very close to having one person die on our roads per day and that is extremely concerning," said Supt Greally.

Todd Melhop was 29 years old when he was killed in a head-on collision with a truck in south Canterbury six months ago. His sister was one of 42 families to lay a cross, one for each person killed on Canterbury roads this year, at Road Accident Remembrance Day in Christchurch. 

His family is still grieving after his loss. 

"Personally I was like, 'This is too many crosses here.' This always happens to other people but it's happened to us," his mother, Glenys Melhop, said.

Police were urging motorists to listen to road safety rules. 

"Just because you have a driver licence, which is a privilege in this country, does not mean you have the right to be an idiot," said Supt Greally. 

It was a strong warning from police to help stop more people being added to grim and growing road toll.