Holiday road toll ends at 'absolutely horrendous' total of 17 with desperate calls for safer driving

The summer holiday road toll is the highest it's been in five years with 17 people dying since Christmas Eve, a figure police say is "absolutely horrendous".

That's significantly higher than last year's total of 11 deaths and there are increased calls for people to slow down and pay attention.

The official holiday road toll period ended at 6am on Wednesday morning and for many people around Aotearoa, it was a holiday period they'll remember for tragic reasons.

"Seventeen families now planning tangi and funeral, which is absolutely horrendous," Police Assistant Commissioner Bruce O'Brien tells Newshub.

The latest to die was a 13-year-old girl in a crash on December 27. She was taken to Waikato Hospital where she died on Tuesday, January 4 from her injuries. 

The first fatality of 2022 was Joshua Hartner, who was hit by a car in Omaha.

Police say all fatal crashes are preventable and usually caused by four main factors. 

"Alcohol, speed, people not wearing restraints and mobile phones," says O'Brien

This holiday period's road toll is the highest it's been since 2016 when it hit.

"People are just taking unnecessary risks like speeding and just not sticking to conditions of the road," says Donna Govorko of Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD)

Road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson wants police to be tougher on those who break the rules.

"If a person is using a mobile phone you seize the phone, that's it - use it and lose it. If you're not wearing seat belts then police should seize the vehicle for seven days," he says.

He's also calling for daytime headlights to be made compulsory, saying cars that have headlights on during day have up to 25 percent lower accident rate.

The New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) wants more police drink driving checkpoints, saying the number of checkpoints has halved since 2014.

The AA is worried police are stretched too thin, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic with many officers working in MIQ.

It's also disappointed in the Government over its roading upgrades, claiming it hasn't delivered on a promise of 200km of median barriers - instead just 50km have been installed.

As for how Kiwi drivers can lower the road toll, the AA urges everyone to make a conscious effort to drive safer this year by slowing down and staying focused on the road.