Provisional holiday road toll of 21 deaths 'completely unacceptable', police say

Police say the holiday road toll is an "absolutely tragic" period for New Zealanders and drivers need to do more to stay safe on the roads.

The road toll for 2022/2023 ended on Wednesday, and police said the preliminary total is 21 deaths. It is the highest recorded since 2017.

The official 2022 Christmas New Year holiday period began at 4pm on Friday, December 23 and ended at 6am on Wednesday, January 4, 2023.

Last year 16 people died on the roads during the Christmas and New Year break, and the year before that there was a total of 11 deaths.

The latest fatal crash during the holiday period was a single-vehicle crash in the Far North late on Tuesday night. Two people were killed after the vehicle collided with a tree on Kaitaia-Awaroa Road, south of Kaitaia.

"Our thoughts go out to those people who are dealing with the very worst of circumstances," Police Assistant Commissioner, Road Policing, Bruce O'Brien said in a statement.

"It is completely unacceptable for 21 people to lose their lives in avoidable crashes over this year's holiday period, but unfortunately we're still seeing the same behaviours contributing to fatal crashes right throughout New Zealand and it's really disappointing."

Those behaviours include fatigue, impairment with alcohol or drugs, not wearing seatbelts, exceeding the speed limit, being distracted by cellphones or devices and sometimes drifting onto the wrong side of the road or rolling.

"It comes back to responsibility for drivers themselves, their passengers and other road users because we've all got that responsibility when we're in the vehicle.

"Police can't be on every single road at every single moment so we really need people to take that responsibility when they get in their car because the absolutely devastating consequences that this has for families and friends that are left behind is just terrible.

"People are often travelling on unfamiliar roads at this time of the year and a moment's inattention could have catastrophic consequences."

Police's plea to people getting on the roads for the remainder of the holiday period is simple - "we want you, and your family and friends to get home alive".

"Please, stay calm - treat the people in the cars around you like they're your own family."