Holiday road toll ends at 19 after person dies in serious Northland crash

New Zealand's Christmas-New Year holiday road toll has finished two lower than last summer, but it came to a tragic end with the death of an infant in another fatal crash overnight.  

Police confirmed on Wednesday morning a person had died in a serious crash in the Far North on Tuesday evening.  

A police spokesperson said emergency services were alerted to the single-vehicle crash at the intersection of Waimā Valley Road and Puha Road in Waimā in the Far North.  

Police confirmed the person was rushed to hospital but died a short time later.  

The New Zealand Herald is reporting the person who died was a six-month-old baby boy who was travelling with his parents and a male friend of theirs when their ute lost control on the gravel and rolled on the road. 

Police wouldn't confirm to Newshub the death in the Waimā  crash was a six-month-old baby boy.  

"We will have to wait until formal identification procedures are carried out before we can do a name release and further details," a police spokesperson said. 

The Christmas/New Year holiday period ran from 4pm on Friday, December 22 to 6am on Wednesday, January 3. The crash in Waimā took the road toll for the holiday period to 19 – two lower than the number of road deaths in the 2022/23 Christmas-New Year holiday period, which was 21. 

Five of the deaths occurred in the South Island and the rest occurred in the North Island.  

According to figures published on the Ministry of Transport website, three people have died on New Zealand's roads in 2024, so far. In the same period last year, four people died, while six died in the same period in 2021.  

But the data also showed the three deaths this year were all people younger than 40, including one younger than 15 years of age. It's the first time since 2021 that a person younger than 15 has died in the first three days of the new year since 2021, according to the data.  

The data also 372 people died on New Zealand roads in 2022. That was up from 318 in 2021 but has dropped to a provisional figure of 338 for last year.   

Northland Road Safety Trust Manager Ashley Johnston told NZ Herald the tragedy involving the six-month-old baby boy was a grim way to start 2024.  

“I know there is a lot of discussion around having potholes and bad road conditions. But it’s time we shift our focus to what’s really killing our people on the road. And it’s clearly people who are not following the road rules," Johnston said.  

She said it's time Kiwis changed their driving habits as he believes the majority of the deaths on our roads are down to poor decisions.  

Johnston said driving too fast, refusing to wear seatbelts, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and not driving to the road conditions are common factors in crashes.  

“We are trending in the wrong direction and it’s time people travelling on roads take more responsibility and bring such numbers down this year," Johnston told NZ Herald.  

“There are so many messages that many organisations put out. But I feel when your neighbours or loved ones have those conversations, the messages are more effective."  

AA spokesperson Sarah Geard told Newshub this summer's holiday road toll was one of the highest in recent years.

"It's tragic that 19 people won’t be coming home," Geard said.

She said there is "no silver bullet" for reducing road deaths and the AA is calling for several things to start to see that figure declining.

High-risk roads around New Zealand need upgrading and improving, more investment in road maintenance, keeping the roads up to standard, high levels of testing for drink driving and introducing roadside drug testing as quickly as possible.

"Along with the Government and Police doing their part, it’s important to remember that every individual on the roads needs to play a part too – such as by driving to the conditions and at safe speeds, allowing safe following distances and avoiding distractions," Geard told Newshub.