Labour Day weekend road toll jumps to eight after motorcyclist dies

The death of a man following a motorcycle crash on Saturday morning has taken the Labour Day weekend road toll to eight – the highest in more than a decade.

Police confirmed on Thursday afternoon a man had died at Waikato Hospital, where he was taken on Saturday after a motorcycle crash on the Desert Road, State Highway 1, near Tūrangi.

The investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing.

His death takes the Labour Day weekend road toll to eight – the highest since 2009 when nine people died, and equal to 2010 and 2011.

This year’s road toll included a woman who crashed on her mountain bike on Luck at Last Rd, Maungatautari,

The cyclist, a 45-year-old Hamilton woman, fell from her bike head first on to a tar-sealed road suffering a critical head injury, the Waikato-based Greenlea rescue helicopter said.

The weekend’s other road fatalities included a person who died in a crash in Horowhenua on Sunday night, and another who died when a car rolled on SH35 in Tikitiki, East Cape, on Sunday afternoon.

A man who died in a crash on the Tekapo-Twizel road on Saturday has been named as 42-year-old Che Tekapa Hogg, from Auckland.

Kelly Eugene Baker, 36, died in a crash in Gisborne early Saturday morning, and another person died in a crash the same day in Whanganui.

A motorcyclist died in Upper Hutt on Friday.

Acting Superintendent Gini Welch, who is the national road policing manager, told RNZ this week the volume of traffic was commonly high over long weekends, but on Friday it was “significantly higher” than it had been.

“Most of the serious and fatal crashes that happened over this weekend happened on 100km/h areas, and that is consistent with people travelling.

“It’s deeply distressing, there are too many people dying and being seriously injured on our roads and this weekend has been another example of that. Sadly, it’s not unusual.”

Welch said she didn’t believe it was directly related to the pandemic or lockdown, but people wanting to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Police will be looking to take any lessons from the crashes this year.

“We also know that most crashes happen as a result of speed, as a result of driving with distraction, impairment and a lot of people sadly are still not wearing their seatbelts,” Welch said.

One of the many crashes this weekend involved at least a dozen people who were injured in a three-car smash on SH5, northeast of Taupō.

The stretch of road has been described by police as one of the country’s most lethal.

Those involved suffered moderate to serious injuries.

It comes less than a fortnight after a horror crash between a van and a truck killed seasonal worker Tino Tagiilima.

The number of people killed on our roads so far this year is 127 – down on 136 at this time last year and the lowest since 2015, however it is likely influenced by the Covid-19-induced lockdown.

In April, at the height of the lockdown, nine people died on the roads, down from 45 the year before.

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